(La Porte, IN) - Paying back rent to keep tenants hurt financially by COVID-19 from being evicted in La Porte County has been approved on a trial basis. Initially, $750,000 of the $21 million La Porte County government is receiving in American Rescue Funds was earmarked for eviction relief.
The final decision rested with the La Porte County Council which approved $100,000 to get the program rolling. If things are running smoothly, more of the federal dollars will go to the effort.
The council did not want to commit the larger sum of money into a never tried before initiative with a system for verifying eligibility and making payouts still being worked out. “I’m not comfortable until I know the procedures are in place,” said Councilman Mike Rosenbaum. “This is what this is about. Weeding out people trying to milk the system and helping those with true needs,” said Council President Randy Novak.
The federal ban on evictions imposed from the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 is scheduled to be lifted at the end of July after several extensions. Many landlords unable to collect their rent are ready to file eviction notices with the courts, officials said. The intent is to keep people unable to pay rent because of COVID-19 inside their homes and to give landlords what they’re owed. The state will pay up to 12 months of back rent.
However, the fear is eligible recipients could still be waiting for their state money when evicted. Officials believe the local program can get money into hands before people are kicked out of their homes.
La Porte County Commissioner Sheila Matias said she was pleased despite the decision to start with a lesser amount of cash. “We don’t have every single detail worked out. We’ve had a lot of good thought about process and how to manage the funds. We want to make sure they’re equitably distributed,” she said.
Right now, it appears landlords will have to file eviction notices with the courts which will appoint mediators working with both sides in each case to reach a settlement. Trustees from Center and Coolspring Townships will apparently screen applicants from the entire county for eligibility and disperse the funds to parties in settlements approved by the courts.
Without the funds, another concern is putting a strain on local homeless shelters until evicted tenants find new homes. Center Township Trustee Lisa Pierzakowski urged people at risk for eviction not to wait until the last minute to seek relief to avoid losing their homes from their own delay. “It’s very hard once you are evicted to get into another apartment,” she said.