TAMPA, Fla. — Thousands of Floridians who've fallen behind on rent could soon get some relief through two new programs aimed at preventing evictions.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Tuesday the state will get $1.4 billion through the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program to help struggling renters.
To qualify: The governor’s office says renters must be receiving unemployment or facing financial hardship, be at risk of homelessness or housing instability or make less than 80 percent of the area's median income.
"Something is better than nothing,” said Johnny Bowers of Tampa, who recently faced eviction. He started a new job over the last month but is still catching up on overdue rent.
Bowers said news of more assistance gives him hope, but he does have some frustrations.
"Did it really have to come down to everybody almost having to lose everything for the government to finally stop and go, 'Okay, wait. We might need to do something?'" he said.
Researchers at Princeton's Eviction Lab give Florida just half a star out of five for its housing policies during the pandemic, but there's hope Tuesday’s announcement will bring relief.
"It's very heartbreaking to see the economic disruption to...families who've been taking care of their children and living the American Dream until the pandemic pulled the rug out from under them,” said William Peña-Wells of Gulfcoast Legal Services.
Peña-Wells said GLS is also offering rental assistance to help those in need -- this time specifically to families in Pinellas County who have a child in the home at least four days a month. Applicants must also have an income of less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
The assistance is made possible through a grant aimed at protecting children through the pandemic.
“This is going to help…a lot of families who are still struggling with the aftermath of the pandemic,” he said.
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