The cycle has deepened into a downward spiral for the many Florida families financially devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. Lost jobs and furloughs, particularly among already lower-paid service and hospitality employees, are driving people into an impossible situation – the rent is still due, and the bills don’t stop when the paychecks do.
For months, Floridians were protected from eviction and foreclosures by a state moratorium enacted by an executive order, but on October 1 – after several extensions – Governor Ron DeSantis allowed the measure to expire.
There’s still a lot of help out there, though.
At the Federal Level
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention passed an order temporarily banning evictions of people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It took effect on September 4 and continues through December 31.
But the order’s protections are not automatic.
Renters must fill out this declaration form and submit it to their landlord. It includes promises – under penalty of perjury – that a renter has made every possible attempt to pay what’s owed.
Here in Tampa Bay
Local governments are offering financial assistance courtesy of federal grant money.
Citrus County: The Citrus County CARES program is providing support to residents who have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The financial assistance can be used to pay for rent, mortgage or major home repairs, but the money is not distributed directly. Instead, payments are sent to vendors (landlords, mortgage companies, contractors, etc.)
Maximum income levels for people requesting assistance, required documentation and information on how to apply can be found on the county’s website.
Hernando County: The CARES Housing Assistance Program received $638,069 to be distributed to households financially impacted by COVID-19.
It can cover back rent, mortgage and utility payments along with homeowners’ insurance deductibles.
Hillsborough County: The Rapid Recovery Assistance Program provides lump sum payments to applicable residents on a first-come-first-served basis to pay rent, mortgage and past-due utility bills
Apply here or call (866) 538-2926 to speak with a representative on the phone.
More information can be found on Hillsborough County’s website.
Manatee County: The CARES Housing Assistance Program is “currently closed”, according to the county’s website.
Pasco County: The Community CARES program has been extended to help another 800 people on a first-come, first-served basis with rent, mortgage or utility bills.
Starting on Tuesday, October 6 at 9:00 a.m., applications will be accepted here.
The financial assistance will cover electricity and water payments, rent and mortgages (on homesteaded properties)
The county has also given money to numerous organizations for the purpose of helping residents. That list can be found on Pasco County’s website.
Pinellas County: The Pinellas CARES Fund will pay up to $5,000 in overdue rent, mortgage or utility payments per affected household.
The money can also be used for extended hotel stays or deposits for new apartments.
Someone who qualifies must have been directly impacted financially because of the pandemic and have less than $10,000 savings in the bank.
Applications can be filled in several ways, and they’re all outlined on Pinellas County’s website.
Polk County: The application process for the Mortgage and Rental Assistance Program is now closed. According to the county’s website, nearly $2 million in CARES Act funds were distributed to Polk County residents.