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With Bills Due, Out Of Work Residents Will Need Financial Assistance. Those Resources Are Limited.

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With the first of the month comes bills — including rent. But many Floridians are out of a job due to coronavirus shutdowns. There’s some relief available for those hit financially by the pandemic, but resources are scarce.

Orange County is offering rental assistance for those in need, although they will need to make an appointment with the county through the Crisis Assistance Program to review their case. The county is closing the hotline at 5 p.m. Wednesday after receiving more than 20,000 application.

The program, which is taxpayer funded, was initially set up to help 1,500 families with a budget of $1.8 million.

“We ask for residents’ patience as we process their applications and appointments,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings. “We have increased our staff and our facilities to accommodate the demand. We will bring the program’s additional funding needs to our Orange County Board of County Commissioners at an upcoming Board meeting.”

Other agencies are establishing funds for central Florida residents. Heart of Florida United Way established a an initial $100,000 fund to help residents pay rent, but demand is outpacing the resources.

“We get about 700 calls a day, on average. We’re now over 3000,” said CEO Jeff Hayward. “The anxiety and the fear is like nothing we’ve ever heard before.”

Heart of Florida United Way is seeking donations from those who can help to bulk up the fund.

We’ve got 5,700 applications already at $1,200 dollars a month” Hayward said Tuesday. “That’s more than $6.8 million of resources that we need. And quite honestly, we don’t have that.”

Local leaders are calling for a state-wide rent moratorium to help those with financial challenges as many businesses shutter doors to prevent the spread of the virus.

Utilities

Regional utility companies are offering assistance to those facing financial hardships.

Orlando Utilities Company

  • Suspending service disconnects
  • Waiving late payment fees
  • Offering payment plans for people unable to pay bills

Duke Energy

  • Suspending service disconnects

Florida Power & Light

  • Suspending service disconnects
  • Waiving late payment fees
  • Customers receiving a one-time 25 percent rate reducing in May

Unemployment benefits

Those affected financially from coronavirus shutdowns can apply for unemployment assistance. Florida provides up to $275 a week for people affected by coronavirus. Floridians need to apply for reemployment benefits online at FloridaJobs.org, but a record number of applicants are causing website slowdowns and crashes.

Congress passed a $2 trillion relief bill that includes a one-time stimulus check up to $1,200 and provides unemployment benefits up to $600 a week for the next four months.


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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. He also helps produce WMFE's public affairs show "Intersection," working with host ... Read Full Bio »

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