Agency Offers Assistance As Federal Eviction Moratorium Ends

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — The federal eviction moratorium has ended in some places across southeastern Ohio, but resources are available for those facing the possibility of houselessness.

It was extended for some communities, but not Athens, Hocking and Perry counties due to the lower rate of COVID-19 transmission in these places.

However, rental assistance is available through Hocking, Athens, Perry Community Action Program, or HAPCAP.  The program can assist with rent or mortgage payments up to $1,000 per month for those who are eligible. Those who make at or below 80% of the median income are able to apply, said HAPCAP community services coordinator Amanda Sawvel. This number differs among counties. In Athens County, those making up to $39,000 would qualify for assistance.

“I think that when a family is in fear of losing their home or to lose their home, it affects their entire world,” Sawvel said. “It’s hard to be a parent when you’re worried about keeping your house. It’s hard to go to work and concentrate on work and be a good employee when you know you’re in fear of losing your home. I think it affects everything and especially takes a toll on people’s mental health.”

The time between the start of the application process and a landlord receiving a check can take a few weeks, Sawvel says, so those who think they need assistance should begin the process as soon as possible. 

It is ideal for people to reach out to HAPCAP before an eviction notice is ever served.

“What we are encouraging tenants is if they are behind on their rent and they receive a notice to vacate based on non payment of rent, to immediately contact their local community action, or which agency is running the rent relief programs here in their area,” said Lucy Schwallie, managing attorney of Southeastern Ohio Legal Services’ Athens office. “The first thing to do and the most important thing to do is to see whether rent assistance might be available to you.”

Southeastern Ohio Legal Services has yet to see an increase in cases related to eviction since the end of the moratorium because evictions require up to 30 days notice, and the moratorium was just repealed on July 31. 

Schwallie said her office has seen an increase in housing issues since the beginning of the pandemic and a rise in people who may not have previously qualified for their services. 

She serves a lot of clients who have experienced evictions.

“Housing stability is an incredibly important base for a healthy life, and the anxiety of losing that can be really the first domino of a lot of dominoes to fall for low-income individuals. So the stress is incredibly high. I see it all the time.”

However, Sawvel said the HAPCAP program also has benefits for landlords. 

“Landlords … recoup funds that they have also been living without,” she said. 

The program also saves landlords time and money in eviction court fees as well. 

There are no limits on how many people can be assisted by the program, Sawvel said, so long as the $5 million allotted for the program remains available. So far, the rent assistance program and the utility assistance program have served 1,400 families throughout the region. 

HAPCAP also offers a summer air conditioning assistance program and a winter heating program.

Those who are interested in getting rent or utility assistance can call HAPCAP at (866) 992-8858, or visit the website here. HAPCAP also offers assistance for those who have trouble navigating their website and services.