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Jax Daily Record Monday, Oct. 26, 202009:00 AM EST

City, JBA propose $5.3 million in COVID-19 eviction, foreclosure aid 

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The Jacksonville Bar Association would manage the program to provide grants up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for businesses.
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor

Jacksonville city officials want to provide $5.12 million in eviction and foreclosure prevention aid to Duval County residents and businesses through a program managed by the Jacksonville Bar Association.

The proposal shifts money from the VyStar Small Business Relief Program to provide up to $5,000 grants to individuals and $10,000 grants to businesses facing eviction or foreclosure because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to legislation filed Oct. 21. 

Ordinance 2020-0673 would authorize the city to directly contract with the nonprofit JBA to direct and administer the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act money as a federal residential eviction moratorium is scheduled to sunset Dec. 31.

“The funds will be used by JBA to provide grants to individuals, families, and small businesses to assist with eviction and foreclosure prevention due to the impending eviction and foreclosure crisis that is expected from related moratoriums on such actions that have expired,” a program term sheet filed with the bill states.

The Trump administration established the eviction moratorium Sept. 1 through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It includes an application process where tenants can claim a substantial loss of household income and the inability to pay full rent, according to a Sept. 4 CDC notice.

The order halted residential evictions through Dec. 31 to prevent further spread of COVID-19, according to the CDC. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed Florida’s moratorium on evictions and foreclosures to expire Oct. 1 in favor of the federal prohibition. 

The Jacksonville City Council legislation would reappropriate $5.3 million from the city’s partnership with VyStar that is no longer needed for a small business relief program, according to the bill. 

The money is part of a $168 million federal CARES Act aid payment Duval County received in April.

CARES Act aid can be used only to fund coronavirus pandemic-related programs like purchasing personal protective equipment for distribution and for direct citizen, business and nonprofit assistance.

JBA Executive Director Craig A. Shoup said Oct. 23 by email that eligibility criteria and necessary tenant and landlord documentation are being finalized. He anticipates the program will be available to renters and property owners by early November.

“Landlords and mortgage lenders will be required to agree to participate in the program,” Shoup said. “The grant funds will be disbursed directly to the landlord or the mortgage lender.”

Applications will be taken online when the program is live, according to Shoup. The city used online applications for other COVID-19 rent, mortgage and utility relief programs early this year.

The JBA would have a $180,000 cap for program administrative fees like supplies, software and salary expenses associated with implementing the grants.

The legislation requires $5.12 million to be applied to rent and mortgage payments.

The JBA is required to keep records and provide a financial report to the city by Dec. 31, 2021.

The Orange County Bar Association is managing a similar program that began in August, providing $4,000 in past-due rent for tenants who meet the eligibility criteria.

Shoup said the JBA became aware of a similar program by the Orange County Bar Association with Orange County government through a network of voluntary Bar executive directors.

The Orange County Board of County Commissioners created its COVID-19 Eviction Diversion Program with $20 million in CARES Act funding, according to the county government’s website. 

That program is income-based and limited to residential tenants.

The city’s contract with JBA is through Dec. 30, one day before a federal deadline for states, cities and local governments to use available CARES Act aid.

Council President Tommy Hazouri filed the bill at the request of Mayor Lenny Curry. It will be introduced at the Council Oct. 26 as an in-and-out emergency. 

That sets up an immediate vote for final approval.

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