ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County is set to receive $39 million from the federal government to help with rental assistance, according to Mayor Jerry Demings.
The mayor announced the additional federal funds during a news conference on Monday.
“We will be making an announcement soon about how we will allocate those additional dollars,” Demings said.
The county previously received $33 million for rental assistance. So far, $1.2 million has been distributed to keep people in their homes, according to the mayor.
“The program offers up to $10,000 in relief for residents with past due rent who are facing the possibility of eviction,” Demings said.
The mayor added that the county may be able to apply the new federal funds differently than before. The current federal program is aimed at reimbursing landlords and the tenant and the landlord must agree ahead of time that the renter will be spared eviction should the landlord receive those funds, according to the mayor.
Demings said with the new federal funds there may be the opportunity for the county to pay the tenant directly.
“We’re exploring the different nuances associated with that. We will be exploring the potential for expending dollars to be used in transitional housing for individuals who may be homeless and mentally ill (and) may need some transitional housing. So we’ll be exploring all of that,” he said.
During the same news conference, the mayor also touted the county’s progress in lowering its COVID-19 positivity rate and increasing its vaccination rate.
Orange County’s current 14-day rolling positivity rate now sits at 6.1%, according to the Florida Department of Health in Orange County.
“Just two and a half weeks ago, during the week of April 22, the 14-day positive rate was 8%. Remember, our epidemiologists and the Department of Health and others have indicated that it community has successfully contained the virus when it reaches 5% or below,” Demings said.
He also said that, currently, 46.98% of Orange County’s 16 and older population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The mayor pointed out that once the county reaches 50% of the 16 and older population at least partially vaccinated, then it will move into phase two when it comes to easing the county’s masking and social distancing guidelines.
“Recall that we will not be required to wear facial coverings outdoors at that level,” Demings said. “We do remain committed to reaching the 70% threshold of those 16 plus receiving at least one dose of the vaccine before we can safely remove masks indoors. That 70% (vaccination rate) is still a stretch goal for us. It’s gonna take a while for us to get to the 70% at the current rate of vaccinations occurring within our community.”
The county is insisting on a 70% vaccination rate among the 16 and older population before entering into phase three of its masking guidelines. Those guidelines, which allow for people to go completely maskless, also call for a 5% 14-day rolling positivity rate.
The mayor is still encouraging Orange County residents to follow those masking guidelines despite the fact that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order stripping away all remaining local emergency orders related to the pandemic.
“From my eyes, I see the overwhelming majority of people in this community still following those guidelines because that’s what they feel comfortable doing, and they have confidence in the direction that’s been given in terms of re-engaging without masks within our community,” Demings said.