Rep. Ben Diamond is urging the Florida Department of Children and Families to expedite the distribution of federal rental assistance.
In a letter sent Thursday to DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris, Diamond pleads for the department to address issues with the state’s federally funded emergency rental assistance program, known as OUR Florida.
“Hundreds of thousands of Floridians face the terrifying prospect of losing their homes in the middle of this pandemic. Many of these families are my constituents. With the cases of COVID-19 rising in Florida, it is absolutely critical these emergency relief funds get to those Florida families who so desperately need it,” Diamond writes in the letter.
Diamond’s push comes after the Tampa Bay Times reported the state had only disbursed 2% of its federally funded rent aid as the federal eviction moratorium expires.
According to the report, as of July 13, the state had distributed just $3.9 million of the $870 million sent to the state. As of last Friday, the department said in an email that it had distributed only $18.3 million to about 4,300 applicants.
The state expects to receive a total of more than $1.56 billion as more money is distributed.
“We absolutely must do a better job of getting these resources into the hands of struggling Floridians.” Diamond wrote in the letter. “With Florida now the epicenter of our nation’s COVID-19 surge, a looming eviction crisis could quickly devolve into an even more catastrophic public health crisis. We simply cannot allow that to happen.”
Reports estimate that about 369,000 households in Florida are behind on rent, Diamond mentions in the letter, including 50,000 households in the Tampa Bay area.
“Through my experiences working with my constituents, as well as the organizations here helping Pinellas residents facing eviction, I have heard reports of the challenges with the OUR Florida program and the onerous documentation requirements needed to receive relief,” Diamond wrote. “While I recognize the need to prevent fraud and abuse, I believe an overly bureaucratic system is totally inconsistent with the objective of providing emergency relief.”
Diamond, a St. Petersburg Democrat also running for Congress, joins several other prominent Democrats calling for the department to quicken its disbursements.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried made a similar plea at a news conference Thursday.
“There is a lot of money there — almost $800 million — sitting there that can help with rental assistance,” Fried said. “That money needs to get dispersed and dispersed properly and timely because the last thing we need is for people to be now evicted.”
August 6, 2021 at 12:20 pm
Thank you for this article it is nice to know someone is advocating for us. I have applied June 8th and have not received help and currently on the verge of eviction for this reason, they keep saying they haven’t received documents that I’ve uploaded multiple times. This has been very frustrating. I feel like I am not the only person they are doing this to and not helping us at all I have wanted to report what has been happening.
August 9, 2021 at 12:54 am
Ive applied way back when this all started and first it was more documentation then it was being reviewed to i been approved now for 6wks and still nothing.
August 9, 2021 at 1:58 pm
Today August 9th 2021 i again called on status on my case with my tenant they keep changing their stories. First need more documentation s then it was pending then it was approved now today i was told again it is pending…….ir has been 4months with all this back and forth .stories are they just helping the ones they know i mean friends and families. .
August 14, 2021 at 8:17 am
I applied for rental assistance on May 10, 2021. Finally, on June 22 my application was ready to be approved for funding. I called and spoke to a representative in the call center the end of the first week of July. She told me my application was “in review for funding” and she stated she’d escalate my application to the person over my application. Here we are, August 14th, 2021 and my application status is exactly the same, no notices posted for me on the website, no emails, and no funds to speak of. When I called yesterday, I was put on hold for over 20 minutes and when the lady came back on the line she told me exactly the same thing I’d heard in July. She was escalating my application and there’d been no notes or anything since June 22nd when it was placed ready to be approved for funding. I need help. My family desperately needs help.
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