JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In March, the city of Jacksonville was given more than $29 million to distribute to families facing eviction and threats of having their heat and water shut off. Since then, hundreds of families have gotten help but thousands more are waiting.
Applications for the rental and utility assistance opened at 8 a.m. March 29. Over two months later, there are 2,526 families whose applications are under review, 87 more pending payment and 2,659 other applications still need to be reviewed.
That leaves more than $19 million that hasn’t yet been distributed to families in need.
The problem, according to the United Way of Northeast Florida, is the length of time it takes to process applications, along with a limited staff. Applications can take weeks to process, some of them requiring more than 100 documents.
Officials say it could take 44 days before a payment makes it to a family’s landlord.
“Right now, we’re working as diligently as we can to get to as many of those and we know people are in extreme need,” said Jeff Winkler, head of basic needs with the United Way of Northeast Florida. “We are working to get these payments out the door as quickly as possible. But we also have to really balance that with the regulations and requirements of the program.”
The city said Friday it was adding staff to help with the backlog, but it did not have an answer for the number of staff that would be hired or transferred to help. Since June 8, the city has approved and paid 96 more applications for rent and utility assistance, bringing the total number of approved applications to 380.
Travis Sapp told News4Jax in early June that he was one of the first to apply for assistance, but that his application was still under review weeks later. Days before our interview, Sapp received an eviction notice. But since then, Sapp said he’s been approved for the help from the city and was told his check would be mailed out Friday.
“Hopefully, they will speed things up and get other families taken care of,” Sapp said.