LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Governor Andy Beshear and Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton held a news conference Wednesday to announce the Community Action Council would take over the management of the city's rental assistance program.
Lexington's Housing Stabilization Program, which started in September 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, had been overseen by city and Community Action Council staff members.
Mayor Gorton and city officials said the non-profit organization would take over the reins because of its extensive experience dealing with issues like housing.
"You're the experts," she said Wednesday. "You're the professionals and you do this type of community support all the time."
On its website, the Community Action Council states it "addresses poverty in Central Kentucky through service delivery, community involvement, and advocacy."
The Housing Stabilization Program has helped 1,600 households and has received $30.4 million in support, according to the mayor's office. Millions of dollars are left, though, as only about $11 million in rental and utility assistance have been distributed.
LEX 18 spoke with a housing outreach employee with the Kentucky Equal Justice Center who suggested that the application process may be to blame for the fact that so much money is still left in the pot.
"I understand that the application turnaround has been really slow," Emma Anderson said. "And that's been really frustrating."
Anderson, who has also protested at eviction relief rallies organized by the Lexington Housing Justice Collective, said she has spoken with tenants who have thought their applications were approved only to find out in court that they needed to update them.
"People should not be evicted for non-payment of rent in Kentucky," Anderson said. "We have money to make sure that doesn't happen."
The problems with rental assistance are not unique to Kentucky.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Treasury, only about $10 billion of the nearly $47 billion set aside by Congress in the Covid relief bill passed in December have reached tenants.
Anderson hopes Lexington's decision to hand over its program to the Community Action Council will help hasten the speed at which applications are reviewed and approved.
"I'm definitely going to give them a chance," she said. "I think that they could really speed things up."
At the news conference Wednesday, the executive director of the organization said she has set a goal of $500,000 in support to be distributed every week.
"We are ready and stand ready to help everyone," Sharon Price said.
Price also noted that the transition in management will not affect how tenants apply for assistance.
Those needing assistance through the Housing Stabilization Program are still encouraged to visit www.covid19renterhelp.org. They can also call the Community Action Council at 859-280-8424.