Local grants offering rent, mortgage assistance amid pandemic

Mortgage and eviction crisis looms as pandemic drags on
Posted at 1:40 PM, Aug 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-21 18:24:49-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Since the beginning of the pandemic, United Way Suncoast has raised more than $3 million to help people. But, as this public health crisis drags on, they need 3 to 4 times that amount to keep making an impact.

“We were entering into this pandemic with 43 percent of households in our region that were barely able to make ends meet, living on what we call a survival budget,” said Emery Ivery, the Tampa Bay Area Chief Impact Officer for United Way Suncoast. “So many families are what we call housing burdened, and that means they are spending a significant amount of their monthly income on housing.”

Ivery said they are closely monitoring the housing crisis and the eviction crisis. Once the moratorium on evictions ends, Ivery worries how they’ll keep families in their homes.

“Normally, they would exceed somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 to 800 eviction notices filed per month. We are anticipating that number is going to go up to 2,000 per month once the moratorium is lifted,” Ivery said.

The average family that qualifies for funds can receive anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 in assistance. According to United Way Suncoast, the total number of families assisted with rent or mortgage payments in both Hillsborough and Pinellas County was around 3,300.

Mortgage assistance programs are still available through Pinellas CARES and Hillsborough CARES. Ivery said the fastest way to get information is by calling 211.

“We do food distributions, and this is a partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay,” Ivery said. “So, providing the food can sometimes relieve some of the money that they would normally spend on food to allow them to pay utility bills and their rent. So we are working with a number of partners to help as many families as we can, but there is still never enough resources out there to help all the families that are in need, and that need is growing.”

Black Knight, Inc., a data analytics company for mortgage and home equity lending, says Tampa has been hit especially hard.

“Both Tampa and Florida as a whole have seen larger per capita impacts from COVID-19 on mortgage performance than the national average, with Tampa’s delinquency rate up 4.6 percentage points since February, while Florida as a whole is up 5.4 percentage points,” said Mitch Cohen, Director of Public Relations Marketing & Communications. “In Florida, there are 204K more delinquencies than there were entering the pandemic, while in Tampa delinquencies are up by 27K.”

Ivery said families shouldn’t wait to apply for funds. Some funding for grants has already been depleted.

“We need the financial resources we can then leverage with other in-kind resources to help families remain in their homes and be able to take care of their families,” Ivery said.