Coronavirus Relief Funds Sit Idle while Families and Communities Struggle
Ohio families and communities are hurting with no end in sight. Many short-term protections like eviction and utility disconnection moratoriums have ended. Resources to support Ohioans who have been laid off or had their income reduced have been made available to help. But the one-time stimulus payments have been spent on food, rent, and other necessities. The extra pandemic unemployment benefit expired.
More needs to be done to keep Ohioans housed, fed, and safe.
That is the message OPLC and more than a dozen partner organizations sent to Governor Mike DeWine last week.
With nearly $1.3 billion Coronavirus Relief Funds unspent or allocated, we urged the Governor to make investments in rental assistance, utility assistance, food and basic needs, and child care.
Additional assistance from the federal government is needed, but the timeline and content of such legislation are uncertain. Ohioans’ needs are urgent. The commitment of these Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars to help struggling Ohioans will provide desperately needed support and show that Ohio’s priority is caring for the most vulnerable during this crisis.
Eviction Expungement Bill Introduced
Senators Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) recently introduced eviction expungement legislation. Senate Bill 343 creates a statewide, legal mechanism for expunging an eviction record, removing any evidence of the court file’s existence from publicly accessible records as soon as three years after the eviction judgment. An eviction can be a barrier to secure housing because many landlords will refuse to rent to prospective tenants who have eviction filings on their records.
The COVID-19 crisis has made the need for eviction expungement even more urgent. An estimated 762,000 Ohio households are unable to pay rent and are at risk of eviction. People of color are especially vulnerable. A recent national survey showed that, while almost half of White tenants say they are highly confident they can continue to pay their rent, just 26% of Black tenants could say the same.
Property Tax Relief Measure Introduced
Senate Bill 335 was recently introduced by Senator Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus). The legislation proposes to reduce property taxes on owner-occupied homes to the extent that property taxes increase by more than three percent from the previous year. The purpose of the legislation is to prevent sudden spikes in taxes. The state would reimburse local jurisdictions for any taxes that were lost because of the cap.
If the bill had been in effect in 2018, more than 60,000 Franklin County homeowners would have been shielded from large increases in their taxes, according to the Franklin County Auditor’s office. Nationally, 34 states have similar laws that protect homeowners from large tax increases.