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Worried about rent or mortgage payments? Here are some resources to help.

It’s important to know which programs will help pay the rent and which will just delay it.
CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times
An eviction sign is posted on a door at the Mosley Motel in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016.
CHARLIE KAIJO | Times An eviction sign is posted on a door at the Mosley Motel in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. [ Times (2016) ]
Published Apr. 20, 2020
Updated May 19, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep Florida’s economy on hold, unemployment has shattered one record after another, making large expenses like rent and mortgage payments a particular concern for many.

Programs offered by both the government and nonprofits can offer assistance, though it’s important to note that some will help cover rent or mortgage payments, while others will simply delay their due date.

Below are some common questions and answers about rent and mortgage payments, and where people struggling to make those payments can look for temporarily relief:

I am worried about paying my rent or my mortgage. What resources are available?

There’s a growing list of places to start:

If you’re a Tampa resident, the city created the One Tampa fund to help people with their rent or mortgage payment for one month up to $1,000, plus $250 for utilities. The website for the fund is here.

Hillsborough county residents can also apply for assistance paying rent or mortgage from the county’s relief program, which recently received a $15 million infusion from the federal government. Instructions for how to apply are here.

Related: Tampa Mayor Jane Castor unveils emergency relief fund

Pinellas county also has its own fund to help its residents pay for rent and utilities. Check if you meet the qualifications on the website here, then you can get the process started by texting COVIDCARES to 898211.

United Way, a nonprofit that works to create local coalitions of charities, has been raising money to increase it aid during the coronavirus outbreak, including assistance paying rent, mortgage and utility bills. To get in touch with the nonprofit and be connected to local resources, call 2-1-1, or go to 211.org for further instructions.

Additionally, Veterans United Home Loans pledged $1 million in aid money nationwide to help people financially affected by coronavirus in areas where it has branch offices — which includes Tampa. So Tampa-area residents who need help, including for mortgage or rent payments, can apply to receive money from the company’s foundation at this website. You do not need to be a veteran to qualify, but those with outstanding applications to receive loans from Veterans United are not eligible.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) passed by Congress institutes a 120-day suspension on evictions for renters in buildings that receive government subsidies or have federally backed VA loans and mortgages owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

For people whose home loans are owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, there are programs to suspend their mortgage payments for up to a year. It’s important to note that interest still accrues during extended payment plans, so those who can make partial payments on their mortgages should do so, according to a Frequently Asked Questions document.

Banks are also offering assistance plans for borrowers struggling to pay their mortgages. U.S. Bank, for example, is offering a suspension of payments for up to 180 days with no late fees. Wells Fargo has a similar program for three months, which can be extended for six months for those who qualify.

If my mortgage or rent payments have been temporarily suspended, does that mean my rent or mortgage payments go away?

No. Only charitable grants, such as the One Tampa fund, actually cover the costs of rent or mortgage. The rest simply delay when that money is due.

Programs to suspend mortgage payments don't eliminate the need to make up those payments at a later date, and the suspension of evictions doesn't take away rent. They just loosens the timeline for when those payments can be made.

Does Gov. Ron DeSantis’ moratorium on evictions and foreclosures protect me?

Most likely, but that depends on the type of property you have.

DeSantis' order suspends foreclosures for both residential and commercial properties through May 18. It also suspends evictions of residential tenants who failed to pay their rent because of coronavirus.

The halt to evictions, however, does not apply to commercial properties, like stores and restaurants, many of them shut down.

Related: Home renters can’t get evicted in Florida, but small businesses can

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