Cuyahoga County announced Tuesday that $2 million in CARES Act dollars would be set aside to help eligible residents make utility payments. The timing is opportune, as the City of Cleveland announced recently that it would resume utility shutoffs for non-payment after a moratorium that has coincided with Mayor Frank Jackson's declaration of civil emergency.
County Council approved the new funding program, proposed by County Executive Armond Budish, Tuesday. The funds will be disbursed by the local nonprofit CHN Housing Partners, which is also administering the county's Rent Relief Fund.
According to CHN Housing Partners, two-thirds of applicants who have sought rental assistance are also in need of utility assistance.
“Besides rent, paying utility bills is one of the biggest struggles for working families during this pandemic,” said Kevin J. Nowak, executive director of CHN Housing Partners, in a statement provided to the media. “We are grateful to Executive Budish and County Council for allocating precious dollars to help county residents stay safely housed during this crisis.”
The available funds are reserved for applicants who are at or below 120 percent of the local Median Household Income (MHI) and have been impacted by the Coronavirus. (You can apply at this link
The funds will be available to residents countywide, according to a county spokeswoman, and will be disbursed as one-time payments to bring applicants current on delinquencies they may have accrued since March. Just like the rent relief fund, where dollars are sent directly to landlords, the CARES dollars in the utility fund will be sent directly to the utility companies. Dollars will be available on a first-come first-served basis.
The $2 million isn't expected to last long. For now, the program is only scheduled until the end of 2020, but the county noted it could be renewed if Congress extends the CARES Act and approves additional funding.
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