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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Oct. 27, 202010:00 PM EST

Jacksonville City Council approves $5.3 million to prevent evictions, foreclosures

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The Jacksonville Bar Association will manage program that provides $5,000 grants for individuals and $10,000 for businesses.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

The Jacksonville City Council on Oct. 27 unanimously approved a $5.3 million eviction and foreclosure prevention program for Duval County residents and businesses.

The Council voted 19-0 to pass emergency Ordinance 2020-0673, which shifts money from the VyStar Small Business Relief Program to provide grants of up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for businesses facing eviction or foreclosure because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill authorizes the city to contract with the nonprofit Jacksonville Bar Association to administer the program as the federal residential eviction moratorium is scheduled to sunset Dec. 31.

Money for the program is from $168 million Duval County received in April from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

After $180,000 in administrative expenses, $5.12 million will be left for direct aid.

The Council approved an amendment 11-8 by Council member Brenda Priestly Jackson requiring 66.6% of aid go to residential tenants and landlords and 33.3% for small business rent and eviction relief.

Council members Aaron Bowman, Danny Becton, Al Ferraro, Randy White, LeAnna Cumber, Terrance Freeman, Ron Salem and Rory Diamond voted against the amendment. 

To qualify for the program, tenants must be at least two months behind in rent or mortgage payments from April 1 through Oct. 31. Tenants also will need written notice from their landlords to qualify.

Landlords or mortgagees must agree to waive all costs, fees and charges incurred as a result of nonpayment or partial payments during the impacted months.

Landlords cannot have unpaid code enforcement liens or be in violation of any state, federal, or local laws.

“I don’t want to unduly enrich anybody who is truly not maintaining their tenants or is not favorably contributing to some of the neighborhood,” Priestly Jackson said. “I know there is a lot of that going on and they have been doing evictions.”

JBA Executive Director Craig A. Shoup said Oct. 23 that grants will be disbursed directly to landlords or mortgage lenders.

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

The city’s contract with JBA is through Dec. 30, one day before the federal deadline to use CARES Act aid.

Bowman said he’s concerned that the money will not be enough to address what he expects to be a wave of Coronavirus-related foreclosures and evictions. 

He said he wants to work with Curry administration officials to find more aid.

“This is one of the issues that, frankly, is very concerning to me,” Bowman said. “Where this is a great start, my fear is that this is only going to scratch the surface in how many people we have in extremis coming up in the future.”

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