CARES Rent and Mortgage assistance overwhelmed, closes after four days

Escambia County’s Rent and Mortgage Assistance program for those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic was supposed to stay open until Sept. 14. Instead the application process ends at 5 p.m.on Friday, Sept. 4.

Funding in the amount of $813,451 for this program was made available by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation Coronavirus Relief Funds.

Residents could apply online, by mail or in person a community centers and public libraries.T he high volume of submissions received since applications opened on Tuesday, Sept. 1, forced the administration’s decision to shut down the application period 10 days early.

The Board of County Commissioners will approve tonight a implementation plans for Escambia CARES Family Emergency Financial Assistance Grant or the Escambia CARES Business Emergency Financial Assistance Grant programs. The dates to apply for these programs will be announced soon.

Last week, County Administrator Janice Gilley told the board it would be Sept. 15, but she hasn’t released her implementation plans for the public to review so that date may have changed. The CARES Act was approved by Congress and signed by President Trump in late March. On June 10, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced how much each county would receive. Inweekly published its plan for how the county could help households and local businesses on July 16.

Last week, Gilley finally presented her recommendations for the funds – more than two months after DeSantis’ announcement. The funds won’t be in the hands of families and small businesses until late September.

More on Escambia County’s Rent and Mortgage Assistance program.

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1 thought on “CARES Rent and Mortgage assistance overwhelmed, closes after four days

  1. Hopefully the public will have patience and empathy for the County staff tasked with rolling these grants out, and recognize that they are working under extreme pressure with very little time due to Ms. Gilley’s months-long inaction with funds that have been available since the beginning of June.

    The deeper problem seems that we have four commissioners who don’t register an understanding of how serious this pandemic is and how badly our economy is going to nose-dive in the coming months. Three of those four are not only intelligent but typically have an abundance of common sense, so this lack of comprehension and long-range planning is baffling.

    Tech stocks dropped by 800 points yesterday and are expected to continue the decline today. Experts are projecting a 45% increase in homelessness by the end of the year. Wells Fargo is looking at laying off 25% of its work force. On a day that United announced they will furlough thousands of people in October, and Marriot announced they are laying off over 600 people at their headquarters, DPZ & co yammered rosy expectations about an upturn in the hotel industry. I guess they recognized their audience; they wouldn’t have dared present those figures to an executive committee of a corporation, who know better.

    All over the country, people are already being turned out of their homes with nowhere to go. Our shelters are already full in Escambia; the Washburn Center is overwhelmed. People are going hungry and Florida food pantries are running out of food. $3000 is a drop in the bucket compared with what some people have built up in back rent debt already. Some landlords will take the check towards the balance and then kick people out anyway. And in the City, they are “solving” the homeless population by taking up parch benches and installing a 50 thousand dollar puppy pee pad instead.

    What is it going to take for our local leaders to understand that, even if we receive all the CARES money they claim to be sending this way, it will not fill the gaping gulf of need that is coming this way? Where is the plan beyond CARES? The new County budget manager just attended her first meeting this past week (not her fault; the result of more foot dragging by administration on a crucial need), and the budget hearings are next week.

    The epitome of the problem was on full display last night when a paratransit driver literally begged for the ability to tell patients they transport that they have to wear masks. Commissioner May’s request for support on it was met with nervous laughter by the other commissioners. He brought the motion anyway, which died for lack of a second to even discuss it.

    Do they not understand that the spread of covid is the worst possible thing for our economy? Do they believe covid is over? That last possibility is a frightening one, because if they actually think that this pandemic is in the rear view mirror, Escambia County is in for a brutal awakening this fall when the flu season hits. There are going to be so many people requiring so much help. And it could be any one of us who find ourselves in that number before this is over.

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