Counties receiving $75M in CARES Act cash for affordable housing
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks after signing the $92.2 billion 2020-21 budget Monday during a news conference at the Capitol in Tallahassee. DeSantis vetoed more than $1 billion from the spending plan sent to him by the legislature. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation is distributing that cash for rental and mortgage assistance.

Florida’s counties are receiving a combined $75 million dollars from the CARES Act to provide rental and mortgage assistance to residents feeling the brunt of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused anxiety and stress, says Gov. Ron DeSantis, including in housing security as the pandemic’s economic effects rage on.

“This (relief), we believe, can tend to address at least some of that uncertainty, economic anxiety and general stress that so many of our residents have felt over these many months,” the Governor said.

In the Florida’s current budget, which DeSantis approved last month, the state tagged $250 million of its federal coronavirus assistance cash for affordable housing. The disbursement, announced Friday in Apopka, marks the first batch approved in the Florida Housing Finance Corporation’s $120 million pool for short-term rental and mortgage assistance.

“Hundreds of thousands of Floridians who may have already had difficulty making ends meet are now suffering even more, losing a job, not being able to find a job, having to figure out how to pay for childcare while schools are in distance learning,” DeSantis said. “This has been a profound disruption to people’s lives, and we have a responsibility to help meet needs in this regard.”

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings noted the funds would go a long way to help his constituents, including those in Apopka. The county’s unemployment rate grew 10 percentage points to 13.3% amid the pandemic.

“That put a lot of pressure on families to be able to take care of their loved ones and to be able to have adequate funding to pay for housing,” he added.

Orange County received $7.3 million of the $75 million distributed Friday.

Demings and Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson thanked the Governor for making the federal assistance available to their communities. And Nelson highlighted organizations contributing to affordable housing in the city.

“As we look longterm, that’s what we’re looking for — how do we engage our community, get them into something that’s affordable and get them off the streets, get them out of unsafe housing and get them into a house that they’ll be proud of and they’ll live their life out of,” he said.

Florida Housing Coalition President and CEO Jaimie Ross spoke on behalf of the 32-member-strong Sadowski Coalition, which promotes affordable housing initiatives and funding within the state.

“We cannot say enough good about Governor DeSantis and his support for affordable housing,” Ross said.

As he did last year, DeSantis pushed to fully fund the affordable housing trust fund in the current budget. Despite the historic $1 billion in budget cuts, the state fully funded its affordable housing needs with the federal cash.

But to receive that funding, the state’s affordable housing administrators needed to meet the CARES Act requirements, namely on rental assistance and mortgage foreclosure prevention.

Administrators shifted focus as the health emergency began in Florida to meet immediate needs. With Friday’s disbursement, organizations could start funding both the emergency assistance and their normal operations, Ross said.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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