Coronavirus: Schools, homeless in line for state assistance

Ohio’s colleges and K-12 schools are in line for millions of dollars to help them safely reopen in the fall, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said on Thursday.

He announced a bipartisan agreement with legislative leaders to ask the State Controlling Board on Monday to authorize spending $200 million for higher education institutions and $100 million for K-12 schools. The money, which would come from the state’s share of federal coronavirus relief funds, would be available to both public and private colleges and schools to assist with all aspects of reopening safely, he said.

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DeWine also announced guidelines for colleges to reopen and said they will have to implement a coronavirus testing plan and guidance on isolating students and staff who are showing symptoms of the virus.

“Today (DeWine) has announced a well-reasoned approach to safely opening higher education institutions to quality, in-person education this fall,” said Bruce Johnson, president of the Inter-University Council. “We appreciate his commitment to assisting our institutions with the enormous financial challenge associated with ensuring that our students, faculty and staff are safe.”

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The money would be in addition to the federal CARES Act’s direct funding of $440 million for K-12 and $190 million for higher education, DeWine said.

DeWine also announced an additional $15 million grant to support homeless prevention efforts and to find housing for people who are without a home. The grant will provide rental or mortgage assistance for up to four months, said Dan Tierney, press secretary for DeWine.

The grant will go to the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, which also received $1 million in April to help residents keep their housing during the pandemic.

“We are thankful for the $15 million they announced today that will help homeless families get back into housing,” said Bill Faith, executive director of the coalition. “The money he announced today was a request we had made to specifically help homeless families get out of shelters.”

Faith estimates that up to 4,000 people can be helped with the money, which will come from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. He hopes DeWine will soon take action on funding to assist people facing eviction.

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“The governor’s commitment of $15 million to prevent homelessness will help many Ohioans in the short-term. But, much more will be needed to stabilize the housing market and keep families safe in the long-term,” said Susan Jagers, director of the Ohio Poverty Law Center

The center asked the governor to earmark $100 million for rental assistance to help stave off a wave of evictions when unemployment benefits dwindle and eviction moratoriums expire.

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“If a statewide rental assistance program is not operating soon, thousands of Ohio families will find themselves facing eviction and homelessness. Some will be forced into unsafe shelters and other group environments, which will put their health at risk as well as potentially contribute to large outbreaks in those communities,” said the center’s attorney, Graham Bowman, in a letter to DeWine.

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Nationally, the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project estimates 25.8 million Americans potentially face eviction by September 2020. In Ohio, 800,000 renters could face eviction and Ohio landlords will be owed $345 million in back rent by then, the project estimated.

Evictions have been largely held at bay through a patchwork of moratoriums and a prohibition on evictions from housing that have federal subsidies or federally backed mortgages. But the patchwork expired in June and the federal moratorium expires July 27. Courts have resumed eviction hearings across Ohio.

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