ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Update:
10investigates shared the stories of multiple Tampa Bay area residents who are not only faced with the uncertainty of coronavirus, but also with the fear of being kicked out on to the streets because they can’t pay their rent.
After multiple calls and emails went unanswered by the Governor’s Office, Thursday evening Governor Ron DeSantis announced he will sign an order stopping evictions and foreclosures for 45 days.
Rep. Shevrin Jones is part of a group of state leaders who has urged the governor to make this order. He said it’s a good move but the damage has already been done in some cases.
“This last move of Gov DeSantis is good, but we have more work to do. This move comes a day after rent was due for some of Florida’s most vulnerable people during this time. Our state can’t operate reactively right now, we have to act proactively.”
Previous: 10Investigates first told you about the issue in March. Now, lawmakers from across the state, including right here in the Tampa Bay area, are calling for Gov. Ron DeSantis to act.
“They called us and told us we had to be out by tonight,” Lynn Sheppard said.
When Sheppard called 10Investigates, he was spending his afternoon packing up boxes. He and his family are being evicted from their home.
“We have nowhere to go so they’ll just put us on the street,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard says he was just put on disability and medical bills have him behind on payments. Those health issues make it even more important for him to have a safe place to live.
“I just had heart surgery and I just got diagnosed with COPD," he said. "This just happened in the past month.”
10Investigates discovered in March that only three counties in the Bay area have halted evictions. That is not good enough for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
“One swoop of a pen by the governor and it clears everything up,” Kriseman said.
Kriseman said there is confusion by the courts and law enforcement about the rules, and it’s time for DeSantis to make a clear statement for the entire state to follow.
“The simplest solution is if the governor puts into order suspending eviction and foreclosures. There are 28 states around the country that’s done that. It would be so easy for him to do,” he said.
Kriseman is not alone. Lawmakers from across the state of Florida held a video conference this week urging the governor to stop evictions. Representative Shevrin Jones of Broward County says this is something the governor should have made clear weeks ago.
“You can’t give out stay at home orders at the same time you have individuals being kicked out of their house,” Jones said.
One of those individuals unfortunately is Lynn.
“Had $1200 in medicine had to pick up immediately," he said.
Lynn says if the governor doesn’t take action, he and his family won’t have a home to stay safe in.
“I don’t think it’s right, especially when I have a health issue and I’m high risk and everything,” Lynns aid.
As we have mentioned before, we have sent emails and called DeSantis’ office asking him if he will halt evictions. You can see our log of requests here:
The governor was even asked about halting evictions in a news conference on March 31 and replied he’s looking to see what is happening federally.
We did send Lynn’s eviction notice to Kriseman’s office and they tell us Lynn is safe to stay in his home for now. But Lynn still doesn’t know for how long
Senator Rick Scott has asked that anyone being evicted reach out to his office. He also sent this statement
"Today is April 1, and so many across our nation are struggling to pay their rent, mortgage and other financial obligations. Congress passed a moratorium on evictions, which will provide much-needed relief and peace of mind for many Americans. Today, I'm calling on all governors in the nation to do everything they can to implement moratoriums on financial payments, including rent, mortgages, credit card payments, taxes, and utilities. I thank the many governors that have taken action to prevent evictions and foreclosures in their states. But we have to go even further to provide much-needed relief for Americans - and we have to do it today."
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act just passed by Congress includes a nationwide moratorium on evictions but doesn't go far enough. As part of his 30-day plan for Americans to get back to their daily lives, Scott called for a moratorium on financial payments, including rent, mortgages, credit card payments, taxes and utilities.
Scott’s office number is 202-224-5274. His website: https://www.rickscott.senate.gov/
If you would like to reach out to DeSantis’ office about this issue, you can call his office at 850-717-9337 or find additional contact info here: https://www.flgov.com/meet-staff/
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