Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.
The national ban on evictions ends this week. Lawmakers are worried Florida’s speedy eviction process could result in thousands of renters hit by pandemic-related economic hardship being evicted if they don’t apply for federal aid by July 31.
Congressman Darren Soto held a housing roundtable Monday with Rep. Carlos G. Smith and other local leaders in Central Florida to urge people to apply for Florida’s state and local emergency rental assistance programs.
“This is something that can really help our renters. It can really help those landlords as well, especially those that are not giant corporations who need this income to make their mortgage,” Smith said.
Osceola County alone — a county that in a non-pandemic year relies heavily on tourism — has more than 1,500 evictions currently hanging in the balance that will be subject to enforcement after July 31, according to County Commissioner Viviana Janer.
Florida received about $1.4 billion out of a total of $47 billion of federal relief money from the CARES and American Rescue Plan for housing issues. The money is being distributed through programs like OUR Florida and other local eviction divergent programs.
But nationwide the federal money has been slow to make it into the hands of landlords. The treasury has sent the money to states but housing advocates, like the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, suggest some of the applications are too burdensome.
“Please, we don’t want to be on the other side of this a few weeks from now where we see thousands of families evicted because they didn’t apply, and it’s too late. It’s like with the vaccine where we have folks now who are on their deathbed dying of COVID wishing for the vaccine, but it’s too late,” Soto said.
Of the 30 programs Florida has in place to distribute the federal funding, 14 of those programs use self-attestation, which is recommended by the National Low Income Housing Coalition to encourage participation in the assistance programs.
And, ignoring rental assistance when facing eviction could really matter in a state like Florida that has a “lightning-fast” eviction process, Soto said.
If renters fall behind on rental payments, they have just five business days after getting a legal summons to pay the landlord what is owed before facing removal from their home.
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