AKRON, Ohio — Tina Soltis knows the fear of facing eviction.
In 2019, the 68-year-old woman moved from Florida to a rental home in Stow to help her son as he battled melanoma, a form of skin cancer.
But in 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to rage, Soltis's son began missing work as a result of his chemotherapy infusions and their money started to dry up.
"With what I get in social security, it wasn't enough to pay rent and all the bills, so we fell behind," Soltis said.
They received an eviction notice from their landlord and suddenly the possibility of losing their home felt very real.
"I was terrified. I didn't know what to do. I was scared," she said. "I was worried because we had no place to go."
Soltis contacted Community Legal Aid, which helped her get rental assistance through the Summit County Cares program and the family, along with their pets, stayed in their home.
"I was thrilled. It was a big relief," she said.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is planning to provide more relief to those staring at eviction.
HUD will be awarding 10 to 20 grants nationally-- worth $20 million-- through a new Eviction Protection Program.
The awards could be announced later this month. According to government census data, more than 7.4 million renters are behind on rent and the fear of eviction is on the rise.
Community Legal Aid applied for one of grants for Summit County and has requested about $2 million. The grants will last two years.
Executive Director Steve McGarrity is hoping the grant gets approved so the agency can "keep as many people in their homes as possible."
McGarrity said some of the money would go to community partners doing eviction prevention outreach, but the bulk of it would pay for a team of attorneys to challenge evictions.
He said the grant could increase the number of residents Community Legal Aid helps from 150 to 500 each year.
"The reality is the number of clients that need help just far outstrips the available resources we have," McGarrity said. "Certainly, the moratorium ended and we are in court much more frequently now having to argue that the court should continue the case."
In its application, Community Legal Aid wrote that Akron is "broadly known as the eviction capital of Ohio with the highest eviction rate in the state and 27th highest in the nation."
The application also pointed out that about 20% of greater Akron renters are at risk for eviction.
"We put together I think a really strong application relying on a number of key partners," McGarrity said.
As for Soltis, she is relieved that her son is now in remission and hopes Summit County receives part of the federal grant to help other people fighting to keep their homes.
"If the government is willing to help like that, then it's a big plus for a lot of people."