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Jacksonville readies $5.3 million relief for 'sleeping giant' of eviction and foreclosure

The money will help confront the building financial pressure on people who have lost income during the pandemic and fell behind on paying rent.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Editor's Note: The video above is from a story that previously aired on Oct. 1, 2020.

Duval County residents and small-business owners facing the threat of eviction or foreclosure because of lost income and paychecks during the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to apply for help from a $5.3 million program being launched by the city of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Bar Association.

The money will help confront the building financial pressure on people who have lost income during the pandemic and fell behind on paying rent, which United Way of Northeast Florida administrator Jeff Winkler has called a "one of the sleeping giants of 2021 we're going to have to face."

Jacksonville City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to create the new program for preventing evictions and foreclosures by using money from the federal CARES Act aimed at helping communities during the pandemic.

The Jacksonville Bar Association brought the concept to Mayor Lenny Curry's staff after learning about a similar program in Orange County.

Unlike the $20 million Orange County program that is solely to help tenants avoid eviction, the Duval program will be for both individuals and commercial businesses. It will cover not only the threat of eviction for unpaid rent but also be available to head off foreclosures because of overdue mortgage payments.

The assistance on the residential side will be up to $5,000. On the commercial side, the maximum payment will be $10,000.

Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Stephanie Burch said the program includes small businesses because a lot of them "are still hurting, and small businesses employ people who rent and have mortgages as well."

"The best way to keep people paying their rent and their mortgage is by keeping them employed," Burch said.

The council put in a requirement that two-thirds of the money would go to residents facing eviction or foreclosure because they've lost income during the pandemic.

"That destabilized so many when you think about families, and they have been hardest hit," City Council member Brenda Priestly Jackson said.

Several council members said the program will just be the start of what's needed.

"I hope there's more money to come," council President Tommy Hazouri said.

The Jacksonville Bar Association has not yet set a date for when it will take applications. The Bar will administer the program by using up to $180,000 of the CARES Act money.

The city received $168 million from the CARES Act and has used it to set up testing for the virus and roll out a variety of relief programs. For the newest program aimed at stopping evictions and foreclosures, the city shifted $5 million in unused funds for a joint program with VyStar helping businesses plus $300,000 from an account for testing services.


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