ST. PETERSBURG — The city is now accepting and processing applications for its rental assistance program after brokering a deal with Pinellas County to access part of $18 million.
Because the city distributed almost all of the $16 million it had for rental assistance, it sought to secure more funding. Pinellas County’s Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday approved sharing another $18 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to include St. Petersburg residents.
The measure also expanded eligibility to people who reside in motels and short-term hotels, which were previously ineligible. Those households would receive assistance for up to 120 days.
The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday unanimously passed the proposal, along with other measures under its consent agenda of items not expected to be controversial. Time for city staff to review applications will be paid from the city’s general fund.
The county had $24 million, but has spent about $6 million to date, leaving about $18.3 million for all residents countywide. That now includes those in St. Petersburg, where 27.2 percent of the county’s population resides. But the city also has 43.2 percent of low- and moderate-income census tract block groups in the county, according to the county’s resolution.
“The need has been inside St. Petersburg,” said Pinellas County administrator Barry Burton.
Renters could qualify for up to 18 months of financial assistance, subject to the availability of funds. Eligible costs include utilities such as electricity, gas, water and sewer, trash removal and fuel oil. Rent will be paid directly to the landlord.
Renters qualify if they’ve experienced reduced income or increased costs during the pandemic, are behind on rent payments or are at risk of missing a rent payment, and have a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median income, which is $59,050 for a family of four.
Applications are prioritized if the household includes an individual who is currently unemployed or has been unemployed for 90 days, households with income at or below 50 percent of the area median income and households that have an eviction filed in court.
The application is accessible from a smartphone or tablet that is connected to the internet. Application assistance can be found at local public libraries and organizations such as Bay Area Legal Services, Community Law Program Inc. and Gulf Coast Legal.
Those who need more assistance can email email@example.com or call the Emergency Rental Assistance Helpline at 855-379-3515 from Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.