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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020 1 month ago

Orange County launches eviction-relief program

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The $20 million program is funded by the federal CARES Act allotted locally and the Florida Housing CARES Act — Coronavirus Relief Funds.

Orange County’s COVID-19 Eviction Diversion Program opened for applications Tuesday, Aug. 25.

The Orange County Commission created the program to help curb the onslaught of possible evictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The $20 million program is funded by the federal CARES Act allotted locally and the Florida Housing CARES Act — Coronavirus Relief Funds.

The income-based program assists Orange County’s most vulnerable tenants in imminent danger of eviction and provides the property owner with an alternative to eviction. It provides up to $4,000 in past-due rent for landlords and tenants who meet the eligibility criteria. It is not a rental assistance program.

“COVID-19 adds a lot of stress to our lives. One thing I don’t want our Orange County residents — especially the very low and low income — is to have to worry about being evicted from their homes,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings. “This new assistance program will help our residents stay afloat during this unprecedented time.”

The COVID-19 Eviction Diversion Program is a partnership with the Orange County Bar Association, Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida and local legal assistance nonprofit agencies. The Orange County Bar Association will administer the program and process all applications. Orange County Government will finalize applications, and the Orange County Comptroller will provide payment directly to the landlords.

The application is available at the online portal on Orange County’s website. The tenant or landlord can initiate the application process; however, both must agree to participate. 

The tenant eligibility criteria include:

• Orange County resident
• Property is the tenant’s primary residence
• Lease is in the tenant’s name and responsible for paying a portion or the full amount
• One or more members of the household experienced a documented, involuntary loss of income that occurred because of the COVID-19 public health emergency 
• Date of job loss, reduction in employment hours or pay occurred between March 13 (Orange County Stay at Home Order Issued) and Sept. 1, 2020
• Must have received an eviction notice, letter from their landlord to participate in the program or referral from the court
• At least two months behind in rent 
• No other person in the household has applied for or will apply for the Orange County Eviction Diversion Program
• Required to certify their household income prior to and after April 1
• Eligibility is income-based with a focus on very low and low income
• Demonstrates ability to pay rent after arrears are paid by Orange County

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