Osceola County to launch 2 new assistance programs for people impacted by COVID-19

Osceola County still has the highest unemployment rate in the entire state of Florida

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – The U.S. Labor Department announced 837,000 people applied for unemployment for the first time last week during an update on Thursday.

Between layoffs and furloughs, people are still struggling to keep food on the table, and much less to pay their rent.

To lend a helping hand, Osceola County is using a big bulk of its CARES Act funds for assistance programs.

The most recent one is the Eviction Diversion program which will launch Oct. 5.

“We applaud the county for adding these additional resources and preventing even more evictions,” Chip Tatum, CEO of the Apartments Association of Greater Orlando said. The organization came on board to help Osceola county residents as a source of information during the process of the new program.

“That will be targeting folks that actually have an eviction filed against them,” Tatum said. “So we’ll be working through the courts and with the bar and the idea is that they can work with the landlord and tenant and be able to settle that past-due debt, get 'em back on their feet.”

According to Tatum, Osceola County did not include an income threshold in the program.

“Osceola County, they did not put that provision into place just so that they could make it open to as many people as possible,” Tatum said.

Chairwoman of Osceola County’s Board of Commissioners, Viviana Janer said 70 percent of the CARES Act funds are being used for their rental and utility assistance programs as well as for the eviction diversion program.

“Unfortunately, Osceola County still has the highest unemployment rate in the entire state of Florida,” Janer said. “Our goal is to try to not get that eviction on the record of the tenant because then it is very difficult for them moving forward in order to get an apartment.”

The program will help tenants who are in imminent danger of being evicted and prevent the property owner from initiating the eviction process.

“This a little bit different because both the landlord and tenant must apply,” Chairwoman Janer said.

Through Osceola’s Eviction Diversion program, landlords will receive payment from the county’s human services department if they have a tenant on the verge of eviction who fell behind on rent between March 1 of 2020 and Sept 30, or beyond.

“Depending on what is necessary we can have the flexibility to use the funds to Dec. 31,” Janer said.

Tenants must show proof their income has been impacted by COVID-19.

According to AAGO, rental relief resources are avoiding an influx of evictions.

“Based in some data that we’ve been able to collect, that’s mitigated thousands of evictions just in central Florida,” Tatum said.

Applications for Osceola County’s COVID-19 Eviction Diversion program will open on Oct. 5 at 8 a.m. and will be open through Oct. 12.

Also launching on Monday is a utility assistance program to provide funding to residents who have not been able to pay electric or water bills.

To apply for rental assistance and utility assistance programs, visit www.osceola.org.

For information specifically on the Eviction Diversion program call 407-742-8440 or email evictionassist@osceola.org.

Applicants requesting assistance must be an Osceola County resident, have a valid driver’s license or ID, have a signed lease or an apartment or house, have an eviction filed against you, and provide the case number. You must also show proof of COVID-19 hardships, for example having been laid off, or your work hours were reduced or you’ve been furloughed.

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