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Lee Commissioners vote to implement LeeCares 2021 Emergency Rental Assistance Program

By Staff | Feb 16, 2021

The Lee Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday to direct county staff to implement the LeeCares 2021 Emergency Rental Assistance Program to help households that are unable to pay rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible applicants could receive up to six months of assistance for back rent and utilities, and up to three months of future rental payments. Lee County has received about $23.3 million from the U.S. Treasury for this program.

U.S. Treasury guidelines require that applicants fall at or below 80% of Area Median Income and demonstrate COVID-19 related financial hardship to qualify. The income limit is $38,600 for an individual, $55,100 for a family of four or $72,750 for a family of eight.

The approval also grants the county manager authority to enter into subrecipient funding agreements with municipalities for the administration of similar programs within their jurisdictions when U.S. Treasury regulations permit.

Through January of 2021, Lee County has distributed more than $60 million of direct community aid through COVID-19 pandemic relief. A similar amount has been expended on other COVID-19 response efforts.

For additional rental assistance eligibility information, log on to www.LeeFLCARES.com. Applications will be accepted starting March 1 for residents of unincorporated Lee County and five of the county’s six cities. Residents of the City of Fort Myers will need to visit their municipal website.

Household Eligibility:

An “eligible household” is defined as a renter household in which at least one or more individuals meets the following criteria:

· Qualifies for unemployment or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19;

· Demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability;

· Has a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median.

Rental assistance provided to an eligible household should not be duplicative of any other federally funded rental assistance provided to such household.

Eligible households that include an individual who has been unemployed for the 90 days prior to application for assistance and households with income at or below 50 percent of the area median are to be prioritized for assistance.

Household income is determined as either the household’s total income for calendar year 2020 or the household’s monthly income at the time of application. For household incomes determined using the latter method, income eligibility must be redetermined every 3 months.

Number of People in Household and Income Limit

(80% of Area Median Income)

1 $38,600

2 $44,100

3 $49,600

4 $55,100

5 $59,500

6 $63,950

7 $68,350

8 $72,750

Available Assistance:

Treasury guidelines allow eligible households to receive up to 12 months of assistance, plus an additional 3 months if the grantee determines the extra months are needed to ensure housing stability and grantee funds are available. The payment of existing housing-related arrears that could result in eviction of an eligible household is prioritized.

Assistance must be provided to reduce an eligible household’s rental arrears before the household may receive assistance for future rent payments. Once a household’s rental arrears are reduced, grantees may only commit to providing future assistance for up to three months at a time. Households may reapply for additional assistance at the end of the three-month period if needed and the overall time limit for assistance is not exceeded.

Lee County proposes to offer 6 months of rental and utility (electric and water/sewer) arrears related assistance, plus ongoing payment of future rents as permitted.

Source: Lee County