Duval County residents can now apply for rental and utility assistance

Emergency Rental Assistance Program has more than $3M left to help residents

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County residents can start applying for rent or utility bill assistance starting Wednesday, Nov. 30.

This is a part of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program through the city of Jacksonville to help residents who lost income because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program has more than $3 million left to aid people in need.

A household that is eligible for this help may receive money for up to a combined 12 months of past-due rent and/or utility bills. The federal assistance program has distributed more than $62 million since March 2021.

As of the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2,000 people had already applied.

RELATED: Duval County to open up applications for $3M in federal rental assistance funding this week

When the application process went online, the website crashed. It is back up, but the city says to keep trying if it crashes again.

News4JAX spoke with a young mother who says she had all of her documents ready at 7:45 a.m. and she did not know what to do when the website started glitching

“It was stuck on a loading screen. It was not moving,” said 20-year-old single mother Kaliyah Clemons. “I was, like, ‘Did I miss something? Whats going on? Did the website crash? Am I going to get through on time? What’s going on?’ I’m like panicking — on my phone, on my laptop, I’m trying everything.”

Two hours later, she was finally able to submit her application, she tells News4JAX.

“I mean day care has gone up, afterschool care, groceries have gone up tremendously, gas, and wages aren’t going up, so we have to find ways to compensate for the large increase we’re having with literally everything,” Clemons said.

A household that is eligible for this help may receive money for up to a combined 12 months of past-due rent and/or utility bills.

Chiquita Moore, director of operations for the city of Jacksonville’s Neighborhoods Department, says money will be disbursed within about two weeks of applying for the assistance and the fastest way to apply is online.

“The money is first come, first served, but priority will be given to those that have incomes at 50% or below the AMI (average median income), those that have at least one member in the household that has been unemployed for 90 days or more and for pending evictions,” Moore said.

For those who do not have internet or computer access, the city of Jacksonville is offering any of the public libraries that have computer labs as a resource. If that is not an option, paper applications are available in the Housing and Community Development Division on the seventh floor of the Ed Ball Building in downtown Jacksonville. Applications will be available for pick up and drop off from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, beginning Wednesday, Nov. 30. All paper applications must be complete and submitted by 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5.

“Incomplete paper applications will not be processed further. I also want to caution those who choose the paper application option that this could potentially cause delays in processing. If they are able to access the internet, we have provided FAQs on our website for a list of public library locations and hours,” Moore said.

Moore says anyone who applies online will receive an email indicating their application has been received and any other questions from the city about the application will be communicated via email.

You can also access the application by texting 211904.

How do I qualify?

Who qualifies is somewhat complicated. Here is a breakdown of who can get money.

Federal guidelines require qualifying individuals and families to have an income that falls below 80% of the (AMI). As Moore told News4JAX, priority must be provided to households that have incomes at or below 50% area median income or have one or more members who have been unemployed for at least 90 days. The income requirements are as follows:

How you qualify for rental assistance (WJXT)

In addition to the income prerequisite, applicants must be a resident of Duval County (this includes the Beaches and the Town of Baldwin) and meet all three of these qualifications:

  • At least one person in the home must be on unemployment or saw a loss of income during the pandemic
  • You can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability, including past-due rent or unsafe living conditions
  • A household income less than 80% of the area median income, which is $46,850 for a single person.

The city says anyone not eligible should contact United Way for information on other local rental assistance programs.

Again, applications will be accepted starting at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, and will close at 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5. You can access the application at coj.net/erap or text APPLY to 211904 to access the application. That application will stay open until 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5.

About the Authors:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.