(February 25, 2022) You may have seen a Columbus Dispatch article entitled “Ohio at risk of losing federal COVID-19 rental assistance money.” We appreciate news coverage about this critical program aimed at helping renters stay in their homes while ensuring landlords receive payment. While the story highlights some of the challenges Ohioans face in getting assistance and individual agency challenges in providing the necessary staff to administer the funds, there are a few important details that will provide greater context to the entire situation.

We are proud of our thorough and diligent process that promises full accountability of taxpayer dollars. On average, it takes about 30 days for landlords to get paid through the program, once proper documentation is provided. 

Some of the delays in distributing funds are indeed related to the forms and documentation requirements which are necessary to prevent fraud. Community Action staff across Ohio are responsible for reviewing all documentation to ensure completion and accuracy. We are proud of their efforts which have prevented funding many fraudulent applications. In Columbus alone, we uncovered 34 cases of potential fraud last month.

Since early in the pandemic, Community Action Agencies have administered multiple funding streams on behalf of states, counties and municipalities, in addition to the funds granted through the Ohio Department of Development discussed in the article. By utilizing all available resources to keep Ohioans in their homes, Community Action is continually processing a record-breaking number of applications for mortgage and utility payments on top of rental assistance. As an example, IMPACT Community Action, the Franklin County agency, has spent nearly $60 million for rent and mortgage assistance, and is on target to spend all allocated funds by the end of July. 

Further, the State of Ohio turned to Community Action Agencies to administer a similar program after previous entities were given an opportunity to do so but found themselves lacking the infrastructure and staff to adequately run the program. Our CAAs adapted swiftly, and many created online forms to help expedite the process. We are currently making great progress on expending another $80.7 million by the end of this month and, as the article correctly states, are nearly $15 million ahead of schedule.

The Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies and the state’s local Community Action Agencies work hard every day to tackle poverty. This program is one component of our extensive work to address the root problems of poverty with efforts focused on education, training, and support services. We continue to encourage Ohioans who are experiencing difficulty paying their rent, mortgage, or utilities to contact their local Community Action Agency to begin an application immediately.