Orange County closes COVID-19 rent assistance hotline, web application

Due to an overwhelming response from residents, the hotline and website application will close at 5 p.m. on April 1.

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  • | 10:25 a.m. April 1, 2020
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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The COVID-19 pandemic has left many across the nation without a job.

In Orange County, where much of the local economy is driven by tourism and the service industry, many residents have personally felt those impacts, as the virus caused closures of hotels, theme parks and restaurants.

In response to this, Orange County government is providing a little financial relief to some residents. 

The county launched its COVID-19 Rental Assistance program Monday, March 23, to assist residents in need. The program originally was supposed to run until May 23, however, due to an overwhelming response of residents in need and with more than 20,000 applications submitted, Orange County will close the COVID-19 Rental Assistance Hotline and application effective 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1. The taxpayer-funded program was initially set up to help 1,500 households with a budget of $1.8 million. The program will provide recipients with a one-time benefit for one month's rent assistance. 

“(For) appointment requests calling into the (hotline), the line (was) very, very busy,” said Lonnie Bell, director of Orange County’s Community and Family Services Department. “As is normal with a program such as this, (we got) a huge amount of calls; however, we’re managed those calls." 

“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.”

Residents who receive an appointment must take all the required documents to the appointment. Those documents may include photo ID for all adults in the household; Social Security cards for all household members; lease information; bank statements and pay stubs for the last 30 days; any other household income documentation, child support, food stamps, social security, etc.; and, if available, a letter from an employer regarding layoff, reduced hours, etc. The final eligibility for assistance will be determined after all supporting documentation has been submitted and reviewed by county staff. 

“We’re asking for … lease information because we’re working with (renters) only,” Bell said. “We’re not working with mortgages. The process for removing someone out of their home if they have a mortgage is much more lengthy. If someone misses a rent payment, they could be evicted in a matter of weeks, and so we’re trying to maintain the stability for those families who are in a lease for an apartment or a home.” 

The COVID-19 Rental Assistance program is also known as the Crisis Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance to Orange County residents each year. The average cost per client of the program is $1,200, and the cost to serve the 1,500 households over the two-month period would be $1.8 million. The program is a one-time benefit for assistance with one month’s rent. 

“Rent is normally the largest expense (for families),” Bell said. “That is why we’re targeting rent as the best means for assisting families during this time. There’s other resources that are available. If they have some money coming in from these other resources, we’d like for them to use that for other expenses. The largest expense, we’d like to help them with, which is (through) the rent assistance.”


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