COLUMBUS, Ohio — With the lame-duck session of the Ohio legislature wrapped up, several bills are now waiting for a signature from Governor Mike DeWine. One of these bills is a $6 billion spending package approved by Ohio lawmakers which aims to provide assistance for child care, nursing homes, food banks and housing assistance. However, some groups are upset with the bill due to an amendment that they believe makes the funds unusable.

What You Need To Know

  • $161 million is set aside to help prevent evictions

  • $6 billion spending package is set to help childcare, nursing homes, food banks and housing assistance

  • Some organizations are upset with an added amendment to the spending bill 

The money for the bill comes from the American Rescue Plan Act and includes $161 million for federal emergency rental assistance to help prevent evictions.

Marcus Roth, the Communications and Development Director for the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, said that an amendment added to the bill makes the funds useless.

"We were thrilled when we saw that appropriation, but then we realized there was language added to it that says that these funds can't be used for any debts that were incurred before December 31st, 2021," Roth said. "This means we can't help anyone who didn't pay rent over a year ago. Anyone in that situation would have already moved out or been evicted already. So essentially, what this language in House Bill 45 does is make emergency rental assistance practically unusable. It's completely unnecessary, as Congress appropriated these funds to be used for several years in advance."

Zack Eckles, a policy advocate for the Ohio Poverty Law Center, agreed that the situation is unfair.

"If you missed three months of rent in, say, October 2021, November 2021, and December 2021, that rent could be covered by the emergency rental assistance money," Eckles said. "Anything beyond those dates isn't covered by federal assistance. This is money from the federal government that, if it's not spent in Ohio to help Ohio families stay in their homes, will be reallocated to other states that are spending it faster and more effectively."

The Ohio Poverty Law Center and the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio are calling on Governor DeWine to veto the bill in its current form, arguing that the amendment undermines the purpose of the funds and makes it difficult for those in need to access assistance. They are urging Dewine  to consider the needs of Ohio families and to work with the legislature to find a solution that will help those facing evictions and housing insecurity.

The governor's office tells Spectrum News they have not received the bill just yet, but they are in the process of reviewing unofficial drafts available online.  Once he receives the bill, the governor has approximately 10 days to take action.