Florida renters struggle to avoid eviction as moratorium ends

As the federal ban on evictions expires, people are worried they'll be homeless.

FOX 35's Stephanie Buffamonte found out Saturday that the state distributed only 2% of the $870 million in federal funds to help keep renters in their homes.

Many people have rental assistance applications pending and if that money doesn't come by Monday, they could be forced out of their homes.

"Knowing that money federally is there but only a very small fraction has actually made it into people's hands is adding a lot of anxiety for folks," said Dr. Rajni Shankar-Brown, a professor at Stetson University and the vice president for the National Coalition for the Homeless.

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The Department of Children and Families did not respond to FOX 35's request for comment but told the Tampa Bay Times that as of Friday, it has distributed $18.3 million to about 4,000 applicants.

The agency said it has more than 30,000 applications and most that haven't been approved are waiting for additional information or documentation from the tenant.

More than 144,000 renters are at risk of eviction in Florida, according to Zillow.

The company predicts there will be more than 22,000 eviction filings in Florida soon.

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"We have many, many children and youth - even pre-pandemic - but now, in the midst of a global pandemic, to see the eviction moratorium coming to expire and knowing the daunting reality is quite heavy," Dr. Shankar-Brown said.

State Representative Anna Eskamani said she and other lawmakers are now calling on landlords to give tenants some extra time.

"We really have been pleading with landlords to have grace, as much as they can. That if a tenant has applied for rental assistance and they're waiting for an answer or a check to come, to please extend grace," she said.

Dr. Shankar-Brown says anyone can help by donating food and hygiene items to local shelters and pantries.

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The Heart of Florida United Way encourages people to contact the 211 Information and Referral Crisis Line to see what assistance or services people might qualify for. 

They also have resources on their website. https://www.hfuw.org/housingresources/.

Watch FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.