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Pinellas to open federal rent relief to low income residents March 31

Residents facing eviction or homelessness due to hardship from the coronavirus pandemic can apply. Pinellas county received $21.4 million for the federal program approved by Congress.
Malcolm Wright, 54, was recently evicted from this apartment in Clearwater. He is one of the many renters who thought they were protected by the Centers for Disease Control's federal eviction moratorium.
Malcolm Wright, 54, was recently evicted from this apartment in Clearwater. He is one of the many renters who thought they were protected by the Centers for Disease Control's federal eviction moratorium. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Mar. 19
Updated Mar. 19

Help is on the way for low income residents in Pinellas County who have struggled to pay rent due to hardships in the coronavirus pandemic.

The county will begin accepting applications on March 31 for its Emergency Rental Assistance Program, part of the federal housing aid program funded by the Congressional spending bill passed in December.

Pinellas received $21.4 million to distribute to residents who have lost a job or experienced financial hardship during the pandemic and face eviction or homelessness. The program will be open only to those with a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median income, which is $39,400 for one person, $56,250 for a family of four, etc., according to Pinellas County.

Funds can cover missed rent payments and future rent costs, according to a news release. The county will make payments directly to landlords or property managers of successful applicants.

Residents can check eligibility and apply starting on March 31 by visiting www.bit.ly/pc-rent.

Pinellas strategic performance manager Aubrey Phillips said it is not clear how many households will be covered with the county’s $21.4 million Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

But last year, Pinellas assisted 8,654 households with rental, mortgage and utilities assistance using a combined $26.2 million of federal and local sources, Phillips said.

Florida was under an eviction moratorium enacted by Gov. Ron DeSantis through the end of September. Now a nationwide eviction moratorium ordered by the Centers for Disease Control to protect renters who have lost work from the pandemic is in place through March 31. But the federal order still failed to prevent hundreds of Tampa Bay families from losing their housing last year.

Pinellas’s program follows other Tampa Bay area counties that have seen high demand in their rollouts of the federal rental assistance program.

When Pasco County began accepting applications for its first round for 500 people on Feb. 17, the program reached capacity in less than 2 hours, according to Pasco County spokeswoman Tambrey Laine.

Phillips said Pinellas County will not cap the number of people who can apply for its rental assistance on March 31.

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