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Sarasota Tuesday, Apr. 20, 2021 1 year ago

County to disperse $13 million in rental assistance

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Those eligible will be able to receive up to 12 months of rental assistance.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

The county has received federal relief funds to help residents struggling to pay rent. 

The county has dispersed $75 million as part of the overall federal coronavirus relief program.

Now, it will disperse $13 million as a portion of a $25 billion federal package to assist with rental payments. The U.S. Department of Treasury dispersed its funds to local and state governments that had a population over 200,000.  

The funds will provide up to 12 months of rental and utility assistance to eligible individuals, plus an additional three months if needed to ensure housing stability, as long as funds are available. 

To be eligible, a household must be obligated to pay rent on a residential dwelling and meet the following criteria: 

  • One or more individuals within the household has qualified for unemployment, experienced reduction in household income, incurred significant cost, or experienced other financial hardship because of COVID-19; 
  • One or more individuals within the household must demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and
  • The household has to have a household income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income, or $43,000 for a single person. 

Treasury guidance states the county must prioritize households that make 50% or below of the AMI or those who have been on unemployment for 90 days at the time of application. 

Per Treasury guidelines, the assistance can be used to pay for hotels as long as applicants meet the other requirements. Laurel Varnell, the emergency rental assistance program manager, recommended the county allow the use as well as continue restricting funds to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. 

However, Varnell recommended the program not be allowed for landlords living with tenants because it is difficult to receive adequate documentation. The change is consistent with neighboring counties. 

The county currently is working to start the process as quickly as possible. Those interested in the program can sign up to be notified when the application portal opens. 

So far, the county has received 580 submissions for program interest forms. The notification system is not an application for the funds. 

The county also will have ambassadors stationed throughout the county at several libraries and community centers to help applicants finish the process. 

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