JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The video attached to this story is from a previous, related report.
A program that's helped more than 200,000 Florida families over the past year is coming to an end. The statewide rental assistance program OUR Florida will no longer accept applications starting Thursday May 12th at 10pm after distributing more than a billion dollars since May of last year.
The sudden decision puts an additional strain on renters in an already tough housing market.
It came as a a surprise, on Tuesday the state Department of Children and Families announced that OUR Florida will stop accepting new applications on Thursday. While the program assisted 228,000 families, many are still waiting for assistance.
"It's helpful for the people who actually receive the money," says Vanessa Brito, "I'm on the other end seeing so many people who have yet to be approved and yet to receive checks."
Vanessa Brito is the moderator of the First Coast News facebook page Navigating Florida's Unemployment Maze, which also handles housing issues. Over the past year she's spoken with thousands of people struggling with the system, some unable to even reach OUR Florida representatives.
"Can you imagine calling OUR Florida every day, haven't gotten money and now the program is ending and you don't know how you're going to pay your rent?," says Brito, "there's all these other questions that we have on how more or less efficient the program is going to be now as it wraps up."
DCF says that all approved payments will be made, but Brito says those still needing help are being priced out of the state.
"I have people who say 'I'm going to move back with my parents in Michigan' or move out of state because they just can't make it," says Brito, who would like to see OUR Florida remain an option for renters, but become a program that operates more efficiently for both renters and landlords.
"There are terrible delays, which means people accumulate late fees, which means by the time they receive OUR Florida checks those checks aren't covering the balance in full and because there's no eviction moratorium people are facing eviction," says Brito.
Brito would like to see a cap on rent increases across the state similar to the cap that exists in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, however measures like that have failed to gain traction with lawmakers.
DCF recommends the following programs for families still looking for rental help:
https://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/homelessness/local-providers.shtml (in Duval County this organization is called "Changing Homelessness")