Florida’s emergency rental assistance program gets $740M boost
Evictions get the green light to continue in Escambia County, Image via AP.

evictions-renters-pandemic-ap-img
After a slow start, Florida has distributed almost all of the $871M it got in ERAP's first round of funding.

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) has accepted a second round of funding through the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).

Announced late last week, the $740.4 million will provide continued funding for OUR Florida, the DCF-led program that offers aid to renters facing financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic. DCF accepted $871.2 million in the first round of funding. Nearly all of the first-round funding — about $858 million — has been distributed.

“DCF is on a mission to support families in their greatest time of need, and the OUR Florida program is another example of our efforts to assist Florida families on their road to economic self-sufficiency,” DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris said. “The extension of the emergency rental assistance program and the corresponding additional relief funds will accelerate Florida’s recovery and help those in need.”

ERAP is a $25 billion federal program that began last January after passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The funds are meant to help families pay rent and utility bills as the nation still reels from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the program launched in May, Harris said DCF and OUR Florida have provided relief to more than 164,000 households. Harris said OUR Florida now has a team of more than 700 helping process applications and get payments out. 

It’s a marked improvement from a slow rollout. In October, Florida was among the states the Treasury warned could see funds recaptured for reporting less than 30% disbursement. A Sept. 30 report from the department showed Florida had only distributed 24% of its funds at the time.

William Peña Wells, a lawyer with Gulf Coast Legal who has been assisting folks through the ERAP process, said he has seen the program make a marked improvement.

“It’s been a learning curve because it was something developed on the fly to respond to a national emergency,” he said. “But now, for every problem case you hear about, there are 10 or 15 cases where people have been able to stay housed and get on their feet, especially families with children.”

But some say the program doesn’t go far enough. The program doesn’t directly pay courts to stop the eviction process, and it excludes short-term rentals like hotels and efficiency apartments from qualifying for funding. Peña Wells also said the program’s reputation still suffers from the rough rollout.

“Unfortunately, we’re dealing with people’s lives and people’s homes, so it has a profound impact and that reputation spread by word of mouth through communities,” he said. “The reluctance of landlords is a problem because of the reputation of the program. It got a bad rap. The perception is it takes weeks and weeks or months to get paid out, so landlords don’t want to put themselves in that. But the process has been better now. It’s gotten better.”

Representatives for DCF said OUR Florida now has an escalation process to expedite applications of renters who might be facing eviction.

Daniel Figueroa IV

Bronx, NY —> St. Pete, Fla. Just your friendly, neighborhood journo junkie with a penchant for motorcycles and Star Wars. Daniel has spent the last decade covering Tampa Bay and Florida for the Ledger of Lakeland, Tampa Bay Times, and WMNF. You can reach Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected]


2 comments

  • Heather

    February 11, 2022 at 7:33 pm

    I Have been trying Since August having been approved and then the money went to the wrong landlord. Which still reflects on my acct. I have submitted 3 times and my landlord received 1 mo. Rent which has resulted in a 7 day vacate notice which is tuesday. I have emailed, & called and no reply.

  • Lisa

    February 18, 2022 at 10:16 am

    I’ve been waiting 2 months and they haven’t even assigned a case worker to my case. My case has been escalated 5 times it’s been nearly 2 weeks since being escalated and still no caseworker. Customer service just says nothing they can do. Says they are over loaded. It’s a shame, they been funded again and still no help to the people.

Comments are closed.


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