State funds for affordable housing programs diverted to help those affected by COVID-19

Posted at 3:47 PM, Jul 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-13 17:46:34-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- Finding a nice affordable place to live in a safe neighborhood is difficult for people across the Tampa Bay area.

"It's like finding a needle in a haystack," said Malcom Irving.

People like Jamie Ross, the CEO of the Affordable Housing Coalition, have been working for years to end this growing problem across the state. And there was a big boost earlier this year when Governor Ron DeSantis announced that $387 million will go into a trust fund for the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program (SHIP)

Unfortunately, COVID-19 put a stop to that.

"Due to COVID, the governor vetoed $225 million of that that was going to local governments," said Ross.

A similar situation happened in 2018 when affordable housing funds went town to school safety as a result of the Parkland shooting. And in 2019, for Hurricane Michael cleanup.

However, unlike those other times, Ross says there's good news this time. Because about $115 million from that $387 million is still in a trust, and the state has $250 million in Cares Act funding.

"Cares Act is federal corona relief funds," Ross said. "Local governments will be receiving Cares Act funding specifically to help rents be able to pay their rent, and prevent mortgage foreclosures."

The money from the Cares Act is only for COVID-19 related hardships. Ross said that's why it's important to keep pushing lawmakers to approve the remaining funds in the trust for SHIP.

"It's critically important," Ross said.

Anyone in need of financial assistance from the Cares Act or SHIP should contact their county to find out what you need to do to apply.