With the devastating effects of COVID-19 still with us as we head into 2022, the Orange County Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) remains both active and essential, continuing to help those struggling financially during the the pandemic.
The program is an income-based initiative aimed at helping Orange County’s most vulnerable tenants. ERAP provides financial assistance to those who are past-due in rent as a result of financial hardships caused by the pandemic. Since March 1, 2021 the program has been distributing $33.4 million of federal funds to assist eligible Orange County residents.
“When COVID first hit two plus years ago, we wanted to be proactive rather than reactive because we knew it was going to impact a lot of our tenants,” said Chris Bright, broker/owner with Best Orlando Property Management. “We saw Orange County was offering this program, so we sent a mass e-mail to our tenants, and the ones who needed the assistance reached out to us.”
Tenants must apply for eligibility by going to the Rental Assistance webpage and filling out the application, at which point landlords get either a confirmation call or email. Landlords must also apply and waive their right to evict so tenants can make payments with monies received from the program.
“Our goal is two-fold; provide rental assistance funds to help our residents remain in their home and provide rental income to landlords to help preserve our rental properties,” said Dianne Arnold, manager of ERAP. “Our dedicated staff is working as quickly and efficiently to provide this support to our residents who need it the most.
The program has been a godsend for property managers like Bright who act as middlemen between tenants and owners.
“It’s hard to put a numeric value on it, but we haven’t had any evictions due to COVID,” asserted Bright. “At the beginning of the pandemic, when people couldn’t go to work, it allowed tenants to get back on their feet, and it’s still doing that for those being negatively impacted by the pandemic today.”
Property owners have also been able to get their rent money, which has been equally as impactful. The majority of Bright’s clients (owners) own only one property. Most are ordinary people who used to live in their property but moved out for whatever reason, but still have to pay the mortgage. They make small profits by renting, so something like COVID could have been a financial disaster for them if not for ERAP.
“Unfortunately, COVID is still affecting many residents, so landlords must remain vigilant by getting the word out to tenants that this program is still ongoing,” said Bright.
To find out more about the Orange County Emergency Rental Assistance Program, including eligibility requirements and what is required to complete the application correctly, go to the Rental Assistance webpage.
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