Pinellas Commissioners Extend Rental Assistance to Hotel and Motel Tenants, With Time Limit | Tampa Bay News | Tampa
Pinellas County Commissioners voted unanimously today to expand county rental assistance to residents of the city of St. Petersburg and those who live in hotels and motels in the county.
Pinellas still has $18,292,000 in Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funds, which they will now share with the City of St. Petersburg, to help fund its rental program. emergency. Funding will also now follow the federal ERAP model, which helps assist hotel and motel tenants.
“I know it will help a lot of people who have been waiting,” Commissioner René Flowers said at the meeting.
But there is a caveat to help. Assistance for atypical tenants is limited to 120 days.
Bruce Bussey, community development officer for Pinellas County, said the deadline was put in place to encourage people with non-traditional leases to sign up for regular leases.
“We think by providing this short-term relief, people have been paying hotel bills, living in hotels so they can catch up, they can save for the down payment,” Bussey said. “If this program is used to pay for that short-term hotel stay, then they can save up and use this program even maybe to get that more stable accommodation.”
But the Saint Petersburg Tenants’ Union (SPTU) said the limited duration of the aid discriminates against people who find it difficult to obtain traditional leases.
“It shouldn’t just be limited to 120 days because it’s the most vulnerable people, like people who have committed crimes, people with bad credit, people who can’t get a security deposit, who stay in motels and hotels,” Karla Correa, an SPTU organizer told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. “So just giving them that much time is like a ticking time bomb. They’re just going to be in the same position in a few months if the county commission doesn’t do anything else.”
Correa also pointed out that although the county has tried to claim that hotels and motels are transitional housing, many people live in these types of rental agreements for years, as CL wrote in an article by January.
Pinellas County told CL in January that the county is not handing out assistance to non-traditional tenants because they want to use the funding to focus on traditional tenants.
“While [federal] Treasury guidelines allow emergency rental assistance programs to cover hotel or motel expenses for eligible households, Pinellas County ERAP does not cover hotel or motel expenses for the moment,” the Pinellas County public information coordinator told CL. “This allows us to focus our ERAP resources on preventing evictions and keeping residents in their homes. »
But ahead of today’s vote, the SPTU called on the community to email the commissioners to voice their support for the resolution’s passage. Following community pressure, the commissioners changed course earlier this year and decided to fund non-traditional tenants, albeit for a limited time.
Across the bay in Hillsborough County, people on non-traditional leases are still being denied help, but the county has not confirmed their reasoning behind denying people on non-traditional leases. traditional.