Local grants providing rent and mortgage assistance during the pandemic

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

“We were entering this pandemic with 43% of households in our region barely able to make ends meet, living on what we call a survival budget,” said Emery Ivery, region impact manager. from Tampa Bay to United Way Suncoast. “So many families are what we call a housing burden, meaning they spend a significant portion of their monthly income on housing.”

Ivery said they are watching the housing crisis and the eviction crisis closely. With the eviction moratorium over, Ivery worries about how they’ll keep families in their homes.

“Normally they would top somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 to 800 eviction notices filed per month. We expect that number to increase to 2,000 per month once the moratorium is lifted,” Ivery said.

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

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

“We do food distributions, and it’s a partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay,” Ivery said. “So providing food can sometimes relieve some of the money they would normally spend on food to pay utility bills and rent. So we are working with a number of partners to help as many families as possible, but there are still not enough resources to help all families in need, and that need is growing.

Black Knight, Inc., a data analytics firm for mortgages and real estate, says Tampa has been hit particularly hard.

“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 and communications. “In Florida, there are 204,000 more delinquencies than there were at the start of the pandemic, while in Tampa, delinquencies are up by 27,000.”

Ivery said families shouldn’t wait to apply for funds. Some grant funds have already been exhausted.

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