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Politics / Issues

Florida receives an additional $740 million for a emergency rental assistance program

An aparment building in Tampa's Channel District
The OUR Florida program has received another $740 million in federal COVID-19 money for emergency rental assistance.

The state has accepted a second round of federal funding to continue its OUR Florida program, which has already distributed more than $858 million in assistance.

The Florida Department of Children and Families will be distributing more funds to help families amidst rising rent costs.

The $740 million is the second round of federal COVID-19 money for DCF’s emergency rental assistance program, Opportunities for Utilities and Rental Assistance (OUR) Florida.

Its goal, according to a press release, is to help Floridians “get on the road to recovery and economic self-sufficiency.”

Since the program was started in May 2021, DCF officials say it has distributed more than $858 million to over 164,000 households statewide.

They’ve also been able to hire more staff, with more than 700 employees now processing applications and taking calls.

Rent prices in Tampa have increased by 34.3 percent since March 2020, more than anywhere else in the nation during that time period.

Erin Minor is the CEO of Harvest House, a non-profit Sarasota organization that advocates for affordable housing. She said there are several factors behind the rapid increase of Florida’s rent prices.

“People are moving down here in droves, more people are retiring,” said Minor. “Landlords are getting out of the rental business and selling because the market is great for sellers. This means there are less rental units available.”

“When there’s less in stock and high demand, you’re naturally going to see those rent prices go up.”

Minor said that this trajectory will likely continue into the future, and that Florida needs to address this affordable housing crisis soon.

Governor DeSantis has proposed a $99.7 billion budget for fiscal 2022-23, the largest proposal in over a decade. It includes $355 million for affordable housing initiatives, of which $209 million will go to workforce housing and low-income housing.

“If we don’t tackle a good portion of our workforce housing issue, we’re going to see a decrease in our labor force,” Minor added. “We’re already having labor issues, and people are going to move out of [Florida] for more affordable states. This puts a community like ours in crisis because so many people who live here don’t work because they are retired.”

Eligibility for assistance from OUR Florida depends on a number of factors, including household income, location, and number of family members living in a household.

To check qualifications and to apply, visit ourflorida.com.

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