Gov. extends freeze on evictions, county to help more residents

  • Osceola County administration building
    Osceola County administration building

Gov. Ron DeSantis last week extended a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, but a homeless crisis still looms in Osceola County. 

The governor’s order forbids evictions and foreclosures against people experience financial hardship because of COVID-19. 

Osceola County on Monday continued its efforts to provide financial assistance to residents impacted by the pandemic with a new round of federal funds. 

The county’s latest application for rental and mortgage foreclosure prevention taps into $11.5 million of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding and is now also available to residents of the cities of Kissimmee and St. Cloud. 

“We want to continue to do everything possible to get financial assistance to our residents in need as we all continue to feel the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Osceola Commission Chairwoman Viviana Janer.“Too many families are still struggling with lost income and food insecurity, so getting these CARES Act dollars funneled out to cover mortgage and rent payments is an immediate priority to help them keep a roof over their heads.”  

Residents have until Monday, Aug. 10, to submit their application. 

Osceola’s application process was updated from earlier rounds to ensure a more fair and equitable way for more families to seek assistance, according to county officials. 

After the application period, each application will be assigned a “lottery” number and selected through a random, computer-generated process. Selected applications will be processed accordingly until the latest round of funding has been exhausted. Applicants will still need to meet certain criteria to be eligible, such as proof of loss of income and a lease in the applicant’s name.   

With this assistance, the county will pay three months of rent or mortgage payments, up to a maximum of $5,000 per household.

Still, even with the moratorium and additional federal funding, the situation is bleak, said Mary Downey, CEO of the Community Hope Center. 

“As we already know there is a huge issue with lack of affordable housing in our community, as evictions loom closer and closer we are worried about where families may land. We are concerned that people will not have a safety net in our community and have been talking with partner agencies to begin working towards solutions,” Downey said. 

“However, nonprofits can not find solutions to this alone, we will need the help of the whole community. I am honestly very worried about the future of our low-income residents in Osceola County,” she said.    

The governor has extended the moratorium three times since it first went into effect on April 2. It now expires Sept. 1. 

Before the governor’s directive, an order issued by Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady on March 24 allowed clerks of court in Florida’s 67 counties to suspend issuing eviction orders that allow law enforcement to remove residents delinquent on their payments. 

Federal rules restricting eviction filings have already begun to lapse, allowing millions of cases in other states to move forward. There are growing concerns that this will lead to mass homelessness in the U.S. and eventually in Florida. 

Eviction and foreclosure protections under the CARES Act expired July 24 and temporarily banned evictions and late fees and required a 30-day notice to vacate before landlords could file evictions.

If Congress doesn’t pass another moratorium, tenants protected under the CARES Act could be evicted starting on Aug. 24. The law only applies to people living in properties that are part of federal assistance programs or backed by federal loans.