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Florida begins distributing CARES Act money to counties for rent, mortgage assistance

Orange County receives $7.26 million

APOPKA, Fla. – The initial stages of Florida distributing $250 million in federal CARES Act money to go toward rent and mortgage assistance began Friday when counties started receiving checks.

Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Apopka Friday to provide details of the initial disbursement in what his office called “a major announcement.”

The initiative was made public late last month with leaders saying that $120 million will go to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, another $120 will be distributed to counties and the remaining $10 million will cover operational costs.

FHFC will distribute the $120 million it receives to multifamily affordable housing rental properties in its portfolio to help eligible households pay their rent during qualifying months from July through December. If needed, households can apply to help cover back rent accrued during the months of April, May and June.

On Friday, $75 million was approved to distribute to counties across the state.

“Obviously there’ll be more to come,” DeSantis said.

Orange County will receive $7.26 million -- one of the highest amounts of any county -- while Seminole County will get $1.1 million and Osceola County was allotted $2.5 million.

“So I think certainly here in Central Florida, this is going to serve a really significant need. This $250 million statewide program with CARES Act money for rental and housing relief, you know, we believe can contend to and address at least some of that uncertainty, economic anxiety and general stress that so many of our residents have felt over these many months, so I appreciate being able to do it here in Central Florida,” DeSantis said.

Already, many counties across Central Florida have developed programs to provide rental and mortgage assistance to those struggling to pay their bills as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Orange County rental assistance portal opened Monday for the fifth and what might have been the final time.

The program allocated $36.5 million to help 30,000 families. Already 21,000 applications have been approved and the county has approved for $21 million to be paid out to families in need, according to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.

Demings was also present at DeSantis’ announcement Friday and thanked the governor for the extra financial support.

“Certainly it has caused some significant challenges for those here within this community. Our unemployment rate pre-COVID was about 3.3%. It soared to 13.3%. So, I know that put a lot of pressure on families to be able to take care of their loved ones and to have adequate funding to pay for housing and so these funds will go a long way,” Demings said.

Representatives in Orange, Seminole, Marion and Sumter counties said they did not yet have plans in place to distribute the money. A Brevard County spokesperson said the Board of County Commissioners will need to make a decision on how the funds are allocated.

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