POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Polk County is giving millions of dollars in assistance for tenants still behind on rent payments.
The average Polk County household is $2,666 behind in rent, according to the National Equity Atlas.
“Because of the moratorium some people may have not gone out to seek assistance, but the pressure of that going away is going to push more people to the forefront to say, ‘hey I really need this help,’ said Tamara West, Housing and Neighborhood Development Manager for Polk County.
Help is on the way. Polk County Commissioners approved using $17 million in federal COVID funds to create Polk's largest Rental and Utility Assistance Program.
The program will offer renters who are behind on their monthly bills dating back to April 2020 up to $12,000 in financial aid.
“You have to be a Polk County resident. Your income has to fall below 80 % of the area median income, you have to be impacted by COVID someway financially,” West explained.
Assistance will be handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis. Priority will be given to tenants with income below 50% of the average median income and unemployed for 90 days.
“I don’t want people to rush and put in applications that are incomplete. We will have the portal open for two months, so it will be open until August 3. So, it’s best applicants completely fill out their applications and then press submit,” said West.
All money distributed will be paid directly to landlords, property managers, and utility companies.
“A landlord knows that he has so many tenants that are behind, he can go ahead and start the application and then there’s an invitation that’s sent to the tenant. And vice versa the tenant can start the application and notify the landlord,” West added.
Applications for the Rental and Utility Assistance Program will be available on an online portal, that will launch on the county's website, at 8 a.m., June 1.
Starting at 10 a.m. on June 1, you may call: 863-345-2600 for more information.