Rep. Charlie Crist and a dozen other members of the Florida congressional delegation are calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to extend the state’s moratorium on evictions, which is set to expire Tuesday, June 2.
The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners separately agreed by consensus Thursday to send a letter to the governor with a similar request.
As of Friday, DeSantis had not made a decision on whether to extend the state moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, according to news blogging site Florida Politics.
In a May 28 letter, Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, cited the dire financial situation many renters are facing due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs and many were not able to receive unemployment benefits because of a faulty website. “Given the state’s failure to provide benefits in a timely fashion, the state bears the responsibility to continue protecting Floridians from eviction,” the letter said. It asks that the eviction moratorium be extended through at least Sept. 15. See the full letter here.
Minorities are likely to be hit hardest, state Sen. Darryl Rouson said during an online town hall Crist hosted on Tuesday.
“Minorities are disproportionately affected because many of us are not homeowners. Even though the governor has extended his stay on evictions, hundreds of cases are landing in the court system waiting for the stay to expire on June 2,” said Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat.
As of Tuesday, 250 evictions had been filed in Hillsborough County and 190 evictions were filed in Pinellas County. A state Supreme Court order, suspending a requirement to issue writs of possession to county sheriffs, will expire when the state’s moratorium expires, Rouson said.
“People are just loading up the system. The debt is going to come due soon and we’re going to see an avalanche of evictions,” Rouson said.
Pinellas County has funding available to help pay rent, mortgage and utilities, County Commissioner Ken Welch said during the town hall. Pinellas CARES Financial Assistance for Individuals offers up $4,000 for one-time financial assistance to individuals and families who have lost jobs or significant income due to Covid-19. A family of four making $52,000 or less would qualify, Welch said.
But the program has not been utilized as much as expected, Barry Burton, Pinellas County administrators told commissioners. The county commission extended the deadline for applying for the CARES programs for individuals and for small businesses an extra month, to June 30.
Money may not fix the issue because not all evictions are financially driven, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told commissioners.
“Not all evictions are because of failing to pay. There’s a whole host of other reasons why landlords are evicting people. Some people are just bad tenants,” Gualtieri said.
Two Pinellas County commissioners, Dave Eggers and Pat Gerard, said they were concerned about the impact on landlords who depend on rental income.
Still, the full county commission agreed to back a letter Welch said he would draft calling for an extension on the eviction moratorium.