New Orange County emergency rental assistance begins

Eviction diversion helped 3,571 households, Orange County’s mayor says

For Rent sign (KSAT)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orange County is ending its eviction diversion program in February, making way for a new emergency rental assistance, or the ERA, program to take over in March.

“Since our COVID-19 eviction diversion program launched six months ago, we have provided more than $11.2. million in assistance,” Demings said on Feb. 19 of the outgoing program. “As of about midday today, 3,571 different individuals or households had benefited from our existing eviction diversion program.”

On Monday, Orange County launched a new emergency rental assistance program. The county’s website describes this program as “an income-based program aimed at helping Orange County’s most vulnerable tenants who are in imminent danger of eviction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The two programs have the same goal, keeping people in their homes through the pandemic, but they do have their differences, especially when it comes to how much aid they provide.

According to the county: People applying for the ERA must be at least one month behind on rent, while the eviction diversion program required two months of back rent due. The ERA caps assistance at $10,000, versus the previous programs $4,000, This program will only assist to catch renters up with past due rent.

In order to qualify for the new ERA program, renters must have incomes at or below 80% of area median income, with priority given to households at or below 50% of area median income or those unemployed for 90 days. Tenants must also provide evidence of past due rent owed and evidence of financial impact from the pandemic, i.e. reduced income or unemployment.

Household SizeVery Low: 50% of Area Median IncomeLow: 80% of Area Median Income

The ERA program will have roughly $30 million in funds to distribute. The county is earmarking $20 million for people at 50% of the area median income and $10 million for people at 80% of the area median income.

The county predicts it could help as many as 8,250 households with average payments of $4,000.

This all comes as there are more than 1,900 pending evictions in Orange County. The national moratorium on COVID-related evictions now extends through the end of March, however, tenants must meet certain criteria to qualify.

The Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association is offering housing clinics via telephone. Call 407-841-8310 to make an appointment.

About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.