Tens of thousands of rental assistant applicants, less than 300 approved so far

VIDEO: Thousands of rental assistant applicants, less than 300 approved so far

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — When the coronavirus hit, tens of thousands of people who lost jobs applied for Orange County’s rental assistance program.

Numbers from the county show of those who applied, only a small percentage have actually received any money.

The system was so overwhelmed with applications, that the county stopped accepting them.

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Javier Figueroa and his family took a big hit when the coronavirus pandemic happened.

“My wife was working, doing house cleaning, so she was affected because she couldn’t go out and work,” he said.

Figueroa, a former teacher, has only one lung. His wife was worried about him getting sick. His small disability check wasn’t enough to get by, so he applied for assistance for April’s rent.

“It’s a feeling of desperation because I have two children,” Figueroa said.

The county set aside $1.8 million and expected to help 1,500 families. However, the demand was so high that the county stopped taking applications on April 1.

County Commissioner Mayra Uribe started looking into the claims and some of the numbers.

Despite more than 26,000 applicants, only 1,524 have been scheduled for appointments. Of these, 436 didn’t show up. About 700 have been denied help, and just 254 have received rental assistance, she said.

Of the original $1.8 million available, $23,000 has been doled out.

“I’ve been told the requirements are pretty restrictive,” Uribe said. “There's a lot of paperwork, there's multiple months of bank statements that are due.”

The top reasons for denial: People have enough money to pay expenses, they have already paid April’s rent and they couldn’t provide necessary documents.

Uribe said federal money is coming, and next week, she’ll be pushing for more of that money to be set aside with rental assistance, and with fewer restrictions, to make it easier for people in need.