FRANKFORT, Ky (AP) — Kentucky will draw on federal money to create an eviction relief fund to keep people in their homes by reimbursing landlords for missed rent payments, Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday.
Beshear said he signed an executive order setting up the system aimed at protecting people in jeopardy of eviction while keeping money flowing to landlords. The fund will draw on $15 million sent to Kentucky as part of federal coronavirus relief assistance, the Democratic governor said.
The relief effort comes as many Kentuckians have lost work because of the COVID-19 pandemic, putting them at risk of losing their homes while putting pressure on landlords who lose rent income.
“It will reimburse eligible landlords for missed rent payments, and give them some advance rent and keep tenants in that home where they can be safe and healthy,” the governor told reporters.
Another goal is to spare renters from emerging from the health crisis “with a ton of debt that they cannot climb out of” because of months of unpaid rent, Beshear said.
Under the executive order, landlords have to give tenants 30 days’ notice of their intent to evict due to nonpayment of rent, Beshear said. The landlord’s notice must request a meeting with the tenant to give them a chance to work something out.
Also, no penalties, late fees or interest could be charged for nonpayment of rent from early March — when the COVID-19 outbreak was first reported in Kentucky — through the end of the year.
Starting in early September, Kentuckians can submit applications for assistance through the eviction relief fund. The money will be available in 119 of Kentucky’s 120 counties, the governor said. The exception is Jefferson County — including Louisville — which already has a separate rental assistance program, he said. There’s also money available through other federal coronavirus relief and private support that can be used for the same purpose, he said.
In late March, Beshear issued an order temporarily suspending the serving of eviction notices for rent nonpayment due to COVID-19. It didn’t relieve anyone of the obligation to pay rent.
Several Kentucky landlords sued to challenge the legality of Beshear’s previous action. That lawsuit was pending, and Beshear said Monday that his new executive order makes the lawsuit moot because it challenges the previous order that’s no longer in place.
“If they want to challenge this order, they’re going to put at risk $15-plus million that’s out there to help people,” Beshear said.
Meanwhile, Beshear announced a COVID-19 outbreak at one of the state’s veterans nursing homes. Nine residents and one staff member at the Eastern Kentucky Veterans Center in Hazard have tested positive for the coronavirus, he said.
The cases were confined to one hallway unit, and the veterans’ cases were traced to a transport aide who has since left the hospital and is recovering at home, the governor said. All veterans in that unit were being tested Monday, and the other residents will be tested in the next two days.
All the veterans who tested positive were sent to Appalachian Regional Healthcare, he said. The hospital has agreed to keep them until either a negative test or 14 days have passed.
Several steps were being taken to mitigate the spread of the virus, including putting up a barrier between hallways and deep cleaning of rooms.
Beshear also reported 373 more confirmed coronavirus cases statewide Monday, raising the total to more than 43,890 confirmed cases since the pandemic began. The governor reported four more virus-related deaths, raising the statewide total to 885. The numbers reported Monday can be artificially low since few labs are open on Sundays.
In one good sign, Kentucky’s positivity rate — a rolling figure reflecting the average number of tests coming back positive for COVID-19 — was 4.77%, down from daily averages that have consistently been above 5% for some time.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness and be fatal.