LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentuckians who are behind on their rent can get up to 15 months of payments from federal funds awarded to the state and Louisville Metro government as part of the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package Congress passed in late December.

The state and Metro government are set to reopen their eviction assistance programs and begin processing applications on Monday, Feb. 15.

Louisville Metro, which already helped about 17,000 people remain in their homes using about $20 million of CARES Act funds last year, has received an additional $22.9 million.

Kentucky will use $264 million in new COVID-19 relief funds for an eviction prevention program to help residents of all 118 counties other than Jefferson and Fayette. Gov. Andy Beshear set aside $15 million in CARES Act funds last year for eviction assistance.

How to get help

In all cases, tenants must certify that they have suffered a loss of income or increased expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Assistance is available for up to 12 months of past-due rent dating to April 1, 2020. Tenants may also qualify for an additional three months of prospective rent payments. The money will be paid directly to landlords, who do not have to accept it.

The programs require that tenant’s household income not exceed thresholds that vary by county of residence and by the number of people in the household. Income limits for each Kentucky county can be found here.

Regardless of whether renters get monetary help, to take advantage of the delay in evictions under the CDC’s national moratorium, they must fill out a declaration form and send it to their landlords. The Kentucky Equal Justice Center made an online tool to assist renters in generating a form:  https://kyequaljustice.app.law/cdc-eviction-declaration/915669

Jefferson County residents

If you are behind on rent but you have not received notice of an eviction (forcible detainer) court filing by your landlord:

To start the process, schedule an appointment here https://louisvilleky.gov/government/neighborhood-place/covid-assistance-programs or by calling 502-308-3344. Once you have scheduled an appointment, you can complete the application online or by dropping off your documentation in person at a Neighborhood Place location.

If you have a pending eviction (forcible detainer) court case:

Call the Louisville Metro Office of Housing at 502-574-1707 or fill out the Eviction Diversion Program Tenant Eligibility Review online form.

Other websites for Jefferson County residents:

www.stopmyeviction.org (created by Louisville Community Ministries groups to be a one-stop place for eviction assistance information)

Metro government’s Eviction Prevention page: https://louisvilleky.gov/government/develop-louisville/eviction-prevention

Kentucky residents (other than those in Jefferson and Fayette counties)

Applications must be made online through the Healthy at Home Eviction Relief Fund. Kentucky’s fund can also provide payments for past-due utility bills. Louisville Metro has a separate program for assistance with past-due Louisville Gas & Electric bills.

Advocates say judges too quick to evict

Meanwhile, Jefferson County judges need to give more leeway to tenants who are facing eviction, a group of Louisville-area advocates for affordable housing and low-income people said at a news conference Friday.

For example, judges should stop automatically signing eviction judgments and ordering tenants to vacate within seven days when tenants fail to show up to virtual court hearings conducted via Zoom, said Louisville Urban League CEO Sadiqa Reynolds.

“What’s happening when they don’t show, there is no thought to, ‘Oh, well, maybe they had the wrong link, maybe the car didn’t start’ – whatever. People are just being evicted, and that’s what we don’t want to happen,” Reynolds said.

The Kentucky Equal Justice Center alleges in a lawsuit filed earlier this month that, in January, court officials changed the credentials to access the remote Zoom court hearings without telling hundreds of tenants who had been mailed notices with the wrong information.

The incorrect information violates tenants’ due process rights, the advocacy said in the lawsuit.

The advocates warned of an impending tidal wave in evictions that will leave people homeless. There have been at least 1,000 eviction cases filed in Jefferson County in 2021, according to the Louisville Legal Aid Society, which represents low-income tenants in court.

In addition to being more forgiving with tenants, the court system could help by giving city officials and advocates contact information for people when an eviction case is filed against them, Reynolds said.

A spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the Courts declined to comment, citing the lawsuit. 

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2021 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.