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Florida uses federal money for rental assistance

FORT MYERS, Fla.– If you’re among the thousands of people behind on your rent in Southwest Florida, there is a new option for you to get help.

The state of Florida received $800 million from the federal government earlier this year. It’s now making that money available to people who have fallen behind in addition to what counties are handing out.

Lee County alone has received 34,000 applications for rental and utility assistance. In the last year, they’ve spent over $28 million of federal money in assistance.

Despite job loss and the pandemic, eviction notices have still been sent out.

Paul Latham of Cape Coral is among those who received a three day notice after falling behind in his rent.

“When you’re not making that type of income you don’t want to not be able to pay and you don’t want to take advantage of people,” Latham said.

Latham trains people in CPR and first aid but when the pandemic hit he lost a lot of work. He’s now waiting on Lee County to help while he starts to get back on his feet.

“You wouldn’t want to have an eviction on your record because it’s going to deter from renting other places,” Latham said.

He and others can now ask the state for help. The state has $800 million in federal money to hand out.

“We had nowhere to go but the woods,” Loretta Swank recalled. That’s when Lee County stepped in and helped provide her and her wife with a place to live.

“That relief alone, just having shelter. It’s coming hurricane season is unbelievable,” Swank said.

The rental assistance has helped hundreds of people like Theresa Barker who got a place back in March. Lee County said just since last October they’ve helped nearly 700 people with rent assistance alone.

“They continue to pay. I have no worries. I don’t have to worry about anything because everything is paid for up to a year right now,” Barker said.

She had been homeless and living in a tent.  Her assistance is now good for a year.

“I hope I don’t have to rely on them for the whole year,” she said.

The Department of Children and Families is accepting applications for rental assistance.

If you need assistance, resources for Collier County can be found here and resources for Lee County can be found here.

The post Florida uses federal money for rental assistance appeared first on NBC2 News.

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