TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis is suspending all evictions and foreclosures in Florida for the next 45 days in an effort to keep people in their homes while Floridians are supposed to stay indoors to slow the coronavirus.
Democrats and tenants’ rights groups have been calling for the governor to stop evictions and foreclosures for weeks. DeSantis said the suspensions were warranted “given the circumstances.”
“I’m not sure you’re going to rent out a lot of new places right now anyway,” DeSantis said. “But nevertheless, you just don’t know how people act."
The governor’s order appears to clarify confusion about the Florida Supreme Court’s earlier attempt to halt evictions and foreclosures.
Chief Justice Charles Canady issued an order March 24 stalling evictions and foreclosures by allowing the state’s 67 clerks offices to suspend issuing writs of possession through April 17. That document is the last step in the eviction process and allows law enforcement to remove tenants from rentals or kick residents out of foreclosed properties.
But the chief justice’s order wasn’t being interpreted consistently. The clerks in Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee and Sarasota counties said they would stop issuing writs. But the Hillsborough clerk’s office said it would continue issuing writs.
The governor is also asking employees from across state government to help the Department of Economic Opportunity answer phone calls made to the state’s unemployment assistance hotline.
The state’s unemployment website has been overburdened by a record number of Floridians thrust out of work because of the virus. But the website also has serious problems, according to three audits dating back to 2015, going back to Rick Scott’s time as governor.
DeSantis said the state’s broken unemployment system was his top economic priority at the moment. If people can’t file for unemployment because the system isn’t working, they could have their benefits delayed by weeks and potentially miss out on billions in federal stimulus dollars.
“We’re in a situation where this system is not handling the needs of the people of Florida in an adequate way,” the governor said. “We need to do more.”
Times staff writer Kathryn Varn contributed to this report.
• • •
Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage
GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 and Tampa Bay, six days a week
UNEMPLOYMENT Q&A: We answer your questions about Florida unemployment benefits
CONTRIBUTE TO THE SCRAPBOOK: Help us tell the story of life under coronavirus
MEET THE HELPERS: Highlighting Tampa Bay’s everyday heroes in this crisis
LISTEN TO THE CORONAVIRUS PODCAST: New episodes every week, including interviews with experts and reporters
HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips
We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.