Are you a renter in Pinellas who needs financial help? If you’ve experienced a loss of income or an increase in costs since March 13, 2020 – for any reason – you may be eligible for help with your rent.
The expansion comes after a second round of federal funding for emergency rental assistance, and the financial hardship requirement no longer needs to be a result of COVID-19.
The county has also streamlined the policies and application process to speed help to renters who need it most. The program changes went into effect on September 7.
Find the application portal and additional information at pinellas.gov/erap.
“Pinellas County residents who experienced a significant reduction in income or increase in costs at any point during the pandemic (since March 13, 2020), may now qualify for financial assistance with rent or utilities, even if their financial hardship was not a result of the pandemic. Previously, applicants were required to indicate proof of a direct or indirect financial impact from the pandemic,” read a release from the county on September 7.
Applications that were previously denied may now qualify, with no need to reapply. The county will contact previous applicants who are now eligible for help.
How Does It Work?
According to the county, program funds can help with up to 18 months of financial support, covering missed rent and utility bills, and future costs. Rent is paid directly to landlords; utility payments are paid directly to utility providers.
“Through the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Pinellas County received $9.7 million in initial additional funding, with up to $24.4 million available based on achievement of U.S. Treasury milestones. The City of St. Petersburg was awarded $6.3 million with advance funding of $2.5 million. The money is intended to prevent evictions and keep people in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic,” read the county release.
During the first round of funding in February, Pinellas County received $21.4 million through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 to establish the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The City of St. Petersburg received $8 million for its residents.
The Rental Assistance Program is jointly administered by Pinellas and the City of St. Petersburg through a shared application portal. According to the county, Pinellas has distributed $9 million to 1,294 households so far, and the City of St. Petersburg has distributed $4.1 million to 576 households.
Who Is Eligible?
Applicants must be Pinellas County renter households where at least one person has experienced significant financial hardship since March 13, 2020, and is behind on rent or at risk of missing a payment.
Applicants’ household income must be at or below 80% of the area median income (AMI), with priority given to households below 50% of the AMI. For a single-person household, 80% of the AMI is $39,400. For a household of four, 80% of the AMI is $56,250.
AMI limits available at pinellas.gov/erap.
The program prioritizes renters who are facing an active eviction in court. Free legal assistance with eviction is available for applicants through the program’s community partners.