With hundreds of thousands across the Ohio Valley struggling to make ends meet, a suite of coronavirus aid packages, including rent and utility relief funding, eviction moratoriums, and expanded unemployment benefits, is set to expire at the end of December.

The consequences could be far-reaching. Poverty rates have soared as some federal programs, including the additional $600 in weekly unemployment aid, came to a close. Now, over 75% of Kentucky’s 7,654 independent restaurants are in danger of closing permanently, according to the Independent Restaurant Coalition; one in three West Virginians is at risk of eviction; 16% of Ohioans are behind on their rent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate is 6.9% ⁠— well below the terrifying peaks of late spring, but twice what it was in February.

Even those who do have cash to spend are being more cautious with it.

Wikimedia Commons

The Kentucky Supreme Court has issued new coronavirus restrictions that will affect courts across the state, including the delay of all jury trials until February.

The mandates come as Kentucky continues to experience a surge in new coronavirus cases. As of Thursday, the state had broken its daily record for new cases four times in the previous nine days.

Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton wrote in a statement that courts need to restrict activities to protect the public and staff from exposure to the virus.

“People can choose whether to eat at a restaurant or go shopping, but in most instances they don’t get to choose whether they go to court. We have a responsibility to do all we can to keep people from being exposed to a potentially fatal virus,” Minton wrote.

Ryan Van Velzer

An online tool created by a Kentucky non-profit advocacy group is helping protect renters from eviction during the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) placed a moratorium on evictions until the end of the year to help people battling economic hardships due to the pandemic, as well as prevent additional spread of COVID-19.

The CDC’s eviction protections are only available to people that qualify and after they fill out a declaration. Protection is not automatic. The CDC’s order applies to all renters, including those living in apartments and homes.

Stephanie Wolf

Gov. Andy Beshear told Kentuckians not to get too excited about the low number of new COVID-19 cases Tuesday.

He reported 273 new cases of the coronavirus during his media briefing, bringing the state’s total to approximately 53,319. Beshear said Tuesday’s update is likely low because labs were closed for the Labor Day holiday.

“I would get ready to have very large numbers on both cases and likely deaths the next couple days if not the next four or five days,” he said. “It’s something we ought to be prepared for. That is both the result for where we are right now as a commonwealth, but also just the impact of Labor Day weekend.”

The governor added that those positive results came from a small sample size, just 1,393 tests.

Stephanie Wolf

Gov. Andy Beshear has announced new funding measures to prevent evictions in Kentucky during the pandemic.

At Monday’s press briefing, Beshear outlined the “Healthy at Home Eviction Fund.” The $15 million plan was activated through an executive order, and the money will come from federal coronavirus relief funds.

Kentuckians cannot be “healthy at home without a home”, Beshear said. The eviction crisis has loomed over both renters and landlords in the months since the coronavirus pandemic reached the state.

In that time, Beshear has identified three major concerns.

Lake Cumberland District Health Department/Facebook

Nearly 1 million renter households across the Ohio Valley are unable to pay rent and at risk of eviction, according to research firm Stout. That amounts to 42 percent of renter households in Kentucky, 46 percent in Ohio and 47 percent in West Virginia. 

“The homeless services system is not designed to handle a tsunami of evictions,” said Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky executive director Adrienne Bush in a call with reporters on Thursday. “The capacity doesn’t exist in Kentucky as things stand.”

Evictions have been on hold since March to protect renters who’ve seen their income drop because of the pandemic. But a federal ban ends July 31, as does the state eviction ban in Kentucky. Some renters may still be covered by a patchwork of state and local eviction bans.