COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – Gov. Mike DeWine has signed a bill into law that will provide $465 million in rental and utility assistance to Ohioans.

The funding allocated by House Bill 167 will go to low-income households and other families who have been hit the hardest financially by the pandemic, Gov. DeWine said Tuesday.

The funding comes from the federal COVID-19 relief bill passed in December, according to officials. It comes on top of the $100 million the state set aside last fall to help those in need pay their bills.

“The goal of this bill, just to restate, is to invest really in Ohio’s people,” DeWine said.

To qualify, households must meet three separate criteria, according to the Miami Valley Community Action Partnership (CAP). First, they must show a documented pandemic-related financial hardship. That includes people who had to stop working, received reduced hours at their job or qualified for unemployment in 2020 or 2021.

They must also have proof of housing instability, such as a past-due rent notice or utility bill or unsafe and unhealthy living conditions.

Third, their household income must be at or below 80% of the area’s median income.

Homeowners do not qualify for utility assistance under this program, according to Miami Valley CAP.

“Anytime we can see additional assistance coming in the pandemic is really helpful for our homelessness situation here in Dayton,” said Michael Vanderburgh, executive director for St. Vincent de Paul.

At St. Vincent de Paul in Dayton – which is now serving about 300 people per night in its homeless shelters – staff members help people staying there obtain these types of funds, Vanderburgh explained, and this new round of assistance will help them reach more people.

“The other issue that we have here is the lack of affordable housing,” he said. “So to have a place to go is one thing, but to have a place you can afford is another, and so that’s where this will be helpful.”

Officials with Miami Valley CAP expect to receive $36 million to help families in need across four local counties, according to Keelie Gustin, chief policy officer.

“Over the summer, to give you an idea, we had spent out about $7 million, and that assisted nearly 2,000 households,” she said. “So with $36 million, we’re hoping to see a huge increase.”

Gustin told 2 NEWS aside from this program, her team at Miami Valley CAP is working on getting additional mortgage assistance to homeowners.

“We are currently working with the home ownership center,” Gustin said. “There are still some things to be worked out on the back end. But we’re trying to find a way to partner on funding like we did over the summer of 2020.”

You can find out if you qualify for assistance and apply by visiting the website of your local community action agency. To find the agency that serves your county, click here.