Tulsa County Stays Committed to Helping Residents During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The effects of the COVID 19 public health emergency have touched everyone’s lives in one way or another. Much of the attention has been on how the pandemic has impacted our economy, government services, schools and health care systems. But one of the most devastating impacts as been on housing.
When the local unemployment rate jumped from 3 percent to nearly 15 percent in a very short time, many who live paycheck to paycheck suddenly found themselves out of work and unable to make rent and utility payments. This occurred for tenants in both public housing as well as with private owners of apartment complexes.
In a typical year, the Tulsa District Court will see 1,000 eviction cases filed per month. That alone gives Tulsa County the 11th highest eviction rate in the country. Unfortunately, with the COVID 19 pandemic those numbers are expected to skyrocket very soon.
To address the expected rise of evictions due to the increase in unemployment, Congress mandated an eviction moratorium from March until August. While this temporarily stopped the number of evictions, community leaders foresee a tsunami of evictions beginning in August for those who will be several months behind on their rent payments and may still be unemployed or if working, unable to catch up.
To give governments time to provide temporary relief, several philanthropic leaders and the United Way stepped up to help with rent payments for those in arrears through May.
To address the rental assistance/eviction crisis expected over the next six months, the Tulsa Housing Authority (THA) applied to Tulsa County for a grant of $15 million of CARES funding. THA proposes working in concert with other community and philanthropic organizations to identify those renters that are on the verge of eviction and possibly homelessness.
In an attempt to be proactive and to keep the current system from being overwhelmed, Tulsa County convened a group of community leaders experienced in dealing with this issue to design a rental assistance plan that will do the most good for the most renters.
This group included representatives from the landlord/property owner sector, philanthropic foundations, THA, United Way, the City of Tulsa and Restore Hope. After thoroughly examining the issue, it was the group’s recommendation that Tulsa County move quickly to provide the funds necessary for the THA to put in place the administrative and operational structure for what is expected to be thousands of requests for housing assistance by Labor Day.
In addition to rental assistance, there are also many renters and homeowners who, due to COVID 19 impacts on their income, have fallen behind with their water, electric and gas utility bills. Tulsa County will continue to work with this leadership team to determine how we might help in this area as well.
As with our previously announced program to help small businesses and non-profit agencies through this pandemic, Tulsa County is committed to helping those individuals and families basic need for housing is being threatened by the pandemic.