Athens City Council discussed Monday creating an emergency funds program to ensure Athens residents can have secure housing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through the CARES Act, the city of Athens would grant money to Hocking Athens Perry Community Action, or HAPCAP. Applicants could then receive a one-month payment from HAPCAP to prevent possible eviction or mortgage default. 

“This program is really designed to help people who are unable to pay housing-related costs from this crisis,” Councilmember Sam Crowl, D-3rd Ward, said.

Those applying would have to provide proof of lost work hours, a lost job or other financial struggle in addition to documentation of a past-due mortgage or rent payment in order to secure funds, Crowl said. 

Funds for the grant are capped at $25,000, but Mayor Steve Patterson said that number could possibly be doubled depending on how the program goes.

Councilwoman Beth Clodfelter, D-At Large, said the program is an excellent idea. She thinks it will not only benefit citizens, but the city as a whole, as hopefully the payments will prevent people from moving out of Athens.

“I think that … it's not only kind and generous, but it's a smart investment in the health and the population of our community, and I hope that that money will go as far as possible,” she said.

In addition to emergency funds, Athens will see more free COVID-19 testing. 

Patterson said he spoke with Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday and requested more free pop-up testing. He told the governor that Athens has a large student population, and more testing will be necessary when students return to campus in August and September.

Athens will have COVID-19 testing through the Ohio Department of Health on Aug. 7. Anyone may receive a test between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. at Athens High School. No appointment or healthcare provider referral is necessary, Patterson said.