Rental assistance program expands eligibility, streamlines application processing
The Pinellas County Emergency Rental Assistance Program is expanding its eligibility criteria and streamlining application processing to help more renters who have faced financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pinellas County residents who experienced a significant reduction in income or increase in costs at any point during the pandemic (since March 13, 2020), may now qualify for financial assistance with rent or utilities, even if their financial hardship was not a result of the pandemic. Previously, applicants were required to indicate proof of a direct or indirect financial impact from the pandemic. The new eligibility requirements go into effect today, Sept. 7.
Applications that were previously denied but may now qualify under the new eligibility requirements will be reconsidered. Applicants will not need to reapply and will be contacted if they are now eligible for assistance.
The application portal and additional information can be found at: pinellas.gov/erap.
Program funds can now provide up to 18 months of financial support, covering missed rent and utility payments as well as future costs. Rent payments are made directly to applicants’ landlords, and utility payments are paid directly to utility providers.
The program eligibility changes result from a second round of federal funding for emergency rental assistance, which came with updated spending guidelines. Through the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Pinellas County received $9.7 million in initial additional funding, with up to $24.4 million available based on achievement of U.S. Treasury milestones. The City of St. Petersburg was awarded $6.3 million with advance funding of $2.5 million. The money is intended to prevent evictions and keep people in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the first round of federal funding, Pinellas County received $21.4 million in February through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 to establish the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The City of St. Petersburg received $8 million for St. Petersburg residents.
The Pinellas County Emergency Rental Assistance Program is jointly administered by Pinellas County and the City of St. Petersburg through a shared application portal. Pinellas County has distributed $9 million to 1,294 households to date, and the City of St. Petersburg has distributed $4.1 million to 576 households.
Who is eligible?
Emergency Rental Assistance Program applicants must be Pinellas County renter households in which one or more individuals meet the following criteria:
- Experienced significant financial hardship between March 13, 2020, and now
- Is behind on rent payments or at risk of missing a rent payment
- Has a household income at or below 80% of the area median income (AMI), with priority given to households below 50% of the AMI (AMI limits available at pinellas.gov/erap). For a single-person household, 80% of the AMI is $39,400. For a household of four, 80% of the AMI is $56,250.
Priority will also be given to applicants who are facing an active eviction in court. Free legal assistance with eviction is available for applicants through community partners of the program.
Residents can find more details about the rental assistance program and eviction legal aid options at pinellas.gov/erap.