UPDATE: Don’t skip eviction hearings, city coordinator advises

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UPDATE POSTED 4 P.M. TUESDAY, FEB. 23, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – With almost $10 million in new federal dollars, Lexington is seeing the latest crush of applicants for rent and utility assistance.

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Urban County Council members got an update Tuesday on the new program and existing programs funded by previous federal and local dollars.

Almost 3,000 families have been helped since last year ( rent assistance program – BFED Presentation 2 (1)). City staff have started attending eviction court to try to assist families who face losing their residence.

Grant programs cover evictions for non-payment of rent but not lease violations or leases running out.

And judges have begun to try to work with the city. But city staff have one big piece of advice for tenants who are in trouble.

“The biggest thing we have been stressing with folks is to go to court because if you are not there, if you don’t show up, there’s really nothing we can do in this instance,” said Charlie Lanter, the city’s grant coordinator.

In just a week, the city already has received more than 12 hundred applications for assistance.

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED 3 P.M. FEB. 17, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Lexington’s Housing Stabilization Program has received more than $9.6 million in new federal funding to expand rent and utility relief to citizens who have lost income because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Linda Gorton said Wednesday.

Altogether, since the start of the pandemic, the City has already invested $4,025,786 million in rental assistance through several programs to help 1,472 local families.

The expanded program will build on that, assisting with overdue rent and utility payments and possible future payments for citizens within federal eligible income guidelines who have lost income because of the pandemic.

“Thousands of our citizens have lost their jobs, had their hours cut, or taken on additional expenses because of COVID-19,” Gorton said. “We’re fortunate that these additional funds can expand our city’s investment in preventing evictions. These funds will keep more people in their homes.”

The rental assistance programs staff are attending eviction hearings in Fayette District Court to provide information and offer assistance when needed.

“We want to be sure tenants and landlords are aware of our rental assistance programs,” Gorton said. “Thanks to our judges for working with us.”

The Housing Stabilization Program first opened in September as a partnership with local human service providers. It invested $1.4 million from the city’s general fund in assistance to over 550 households. This new infusion of federal support allows the program to expand and provide much larger amounts of assistance to more people.

To apply, citizens should visit www.covid19renterhelp.org. Completed applications will be processed by the City and Community Action Council. Applicants should not contact Community Action Council or the City directly.

“For the last 11 months, Community Action Council has been on the front lines helping thousands of families recover from the pandemic. During that time, we have been in close partnership with the City to provide rental assistance to hundreds of tenants facing the threat of eviction.  As we continue to assist eligible households through the City’s Housing Stabilization Program, my team is committed to assisting those individuals and families as quickly as possible while also working to meet their other needs, as well,” said Sharon Price, executive director of Community Action Council.

The program is separate from the new state program that started taking applications earlier this week. That program covers every county except Fayette and Jefferson, which have their own programs.