Relief fund to help with rent and mortgages

TALLAHASSEE — Floridians who lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are behind in rent or mortgage payments might qualify for some relief.

Gov. Ron DeSantis authorized $120 million of the State of Florida’s Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) allocation to Florida Housing Finance Corporation (Florida Housing) to assist Floridians who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and struggling to pay housing expenses such as rent, mortgage payments and emergency repairs that will keep families stably and safely housed.

The Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) is a portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed into law by the president in March 2020 in response to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Florida Housing’s CRF Fund for Impacted Homeowners and Renters will be administered by the local State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program (SHIP) housing office in each community.

Okeechobee County was among the first to return the required agreement to obtain a share of the funding, explained Florida Housing Finance Corp. Executive Director Trey Price. He grew up in Okeechobee, and Price said he was “very excited to see Okeechobee was one of the first counties to get their agreement back.”

Price said some cities also qualified for funding, but the City of Okeechobee did not.

Okeechobee County returned the paperwork in time to be part of the “first batch” of funding, Price explained. The county will receive $240,768. Up to 10% of the funding can be used for administrative costs. At their July 23 meeting, the Okeechobee County Board of Commissioners voted to hire extra temporary staff for the SHIP office to help process the applications.
The state’s “first” round of funding will total $75 million. A second round of funding — $45 million — will be released in September. The second round of funding will be distributed to the areas most in need, he explained.

Counties that have qualified for funding in the Lake Okeechobee area include:
• Okeechobee County – $ 240,768;
• Glades County – $175,000;
• Hendry County – $240,768;
• Palm Beach County – $4,882,029
• Martin County – $572,301.

Applicants must meet income guidelines and have documentation to show they lost income due to the pandemic.

The income limits are up to 120% of the median income for that county, with adjustments for household size.
• For Okeechobee, Hendry and Glades counties, a single person with annual income of less than $44,000 would qualify. For a family of four, the maximum income limit is $63,360.
• For Palm Beach County, a single person with annual income of less than $73,800 would qualify. For a family of four, the maximum income limit is $105,360.
• For Martin County, a single person with annual income of less than $58,440 would qualify. For a family of four, the maximum income limit is $83,400

Those who face foreclosure because they were unable to pay their mortgage could also qualify for help. Price explained many banks worked with lenders to postpone mortgage payments by tacking additional months onto the back of the mortgage payment schedule. If a bank is starting foreclosure, those homeowners might qualify for funding, he said.

Other expenses necessary to keep the family in the home could also quality for help. If someone’s roof needs emergency repairs and their income was affected by COVID-19, they might qualify for help.

The funding must be expended by Dec. 30.

If a county uses their first phase of allocated funding faster, they might qualify for more money in the second round, he said.

Okeechobee, Glades, Hendry, Palm Beach and Martin County SHIP offices have not yet begun accepting applications. The Lake Okeechobee News will keep readers updated when those application periods open.

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