Columbus is offering federal COVID funding to those unable to pay rent


Columbus City Council on Monday approved $ 26.8 million in federal funds for rental subsidies that can be used for new and existing COVID-related aid programs.

The council also approved the spending of $ 267.7 million on the Lower Olentangy Tunnel Project, which is considered the second most expensive municipal construction project in the city’s history. Over the next five years, the city will be drilling a large tunnel 50 feet underground to handle the sewer overflow.

>> Read also: Flood victims blame Blueprint Columbus wastewater program

The new federal emergency rent program raised $ 25 billion to help households across the country unable to pay rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with funds being donated directly to states and local governments flow to manage them. At least 90% must be used for direct financial support, including utility payments and house energy costs.

“Helping people stay in their homes is one of the most direct ways to support families in Columbus,” said Elizabeth Brown, pro tem council president.

The Columbus Rental Assistance Program is administered by the non-profit organization Hope Fund from IMPACT Community Action. To get help, tenants must meet certain requirements, such as a valid rental agreement, a rental payment of or less than 200% “market rent”, and certain income requirements.

Households must also have got into financial hardship, either directly or indirectly, as a result of COVID-19, such as an IMPACT community declaration of action.

According to the Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an estimated 15.1 million adults living in rental apartments, or about one in five adults, were behind on rent in mid-January. Colored renters were more likely to say their household was behind on rent: 36% of black renters, 29% of Latino renters, and 16% of Asian renters said they were behind on payments, compared with 12% of renters white tenants said the center on its website.

The Lower Olentangy Tunnel Project will divert stormwater overflows from Tuttle Park, north of Ohio State University, to downtown, following a path generally along the Olentangy River. A tunnel boring machine is used to drill a downstream rain overflow tunnel in order to keep rainwater from overflowing sewage treatment plants on the south side in the event of heavy rainfall.

The water in the tunnel is then successively led into the sewage treatment plants in order to comply with the orders of federal and state environmental protection authorities in the long term to end the discharge of raw sewage into urban streams and rivers in the event of storms. .

>> Read also: Machine completes 4.5 mile tunnel for Columbus wastewater project

The first eight-kilometer tunnel section between the South Side and the Arena District was completed in 2015 for around 371 million US dollars – making it the most expensive urban development project in history to date.

Urban water and wastewater customers have had to accept almost constant rate increases over the years to pay for the project, which was financed through low-interest government loans. The ultimate goal is to have Columbus sewage overflow into rivers caused by heavy rainfall, no more than once every decade.

To cut total costs by $ 1 billion, the city began diverting some of the rainwater from the sewer system and instead diverted it into the ground through “rain gardens” and water-absorbing walkways.

The contract to build the new tunnel segment went to Granite Construction Co. of Northbrook, Illinois, which, according to the city, had submitted the lowest and best bid. The work should be completed by the end of 2026.

On other matters, on Monday the council made its second installment – $ 12.5 million – for the city’s $ 38 million cash contribution to renovating the Mapfre Stadium, which will turn it into a state-of-the-art training facility for the Columbus Crew SC is to be converted into a planned urban recreational sports park.

>> Read also: State grants Crew SC a 75-year lease; City is still waiting

While the crew’s expanded facility is under construction and approved by the Ohio Expositions Commission with a 75-year lease in January, the municipal Recreation & Parks project remains off the state fairgrounds adjacent to Mapfre with no state approval for required land.

“Just want to remind ourselves that when we were talking about this commitment (recreational greens) we were talking about being close to more than 200,000 of our residents, and we just need to make sure we focus on that commitment,” Shannon said Hardin.

Councilor Emmanuel Remy, chairman of the Economic Development Committee, replied that while the city does not yet have a state lease, “we are making progress in this area”.

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