Still struggling to pay rent? Polk County offers $1 million in new funding to help pay for housing

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POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County commissioners have allocated $1 million to reopen the mortgage and rental assistance program to residents who lost income from the pandemic and did not already receive relief.

“If they’re delinquent on their rent or mortgage, they could qualify for assistance. The only caveat is that if they’re received mortgage or rental assistance already from my office, they would not qualify,” said Tamara West, Polk County’s housing and neighborhood development manager.

Polk County previously distributed housing relief to 726 applicants using $3.2 million in CARES Act funding.

“I think it’s going to be a pretty large response,” said West. “We have still been getting calls. The other program closed August 19th and we just completely finished it about a week ago. Daily we’re getting calls anywhere from 15- 20 people asking for additional assistance.”

West expects to help 700 more clients with at least $3,500 each. The money is submitted directly to the applicant’s landlord or mortgage company.

Nearly half of the applicants got denied earlier in the year and are encouraged to re-apply on Dec. 29 – Dec. 31.

Applications will be made available on Polk County’s website on Dec. 29.

Documents needed to apply for assistance:

• Florida Driver License for applicant and coapplicant
• Provide proof of loss due to COVID-19
• Current lease or mortgage statement in applicant’s/co-applicant’s name
• Current utility bill (water or electric)
• Current bank statement
• Most recent paystub or unemployment letter
• W-9 form from your landlord, property manager or mortgage company

“If they can get the new documentation now, the required documents, they can apply for this funding. So if they weren’t approved before, they can apply again,” said West.

There is an income-eligibility requirement. Household income must be below 80% of area median income, which is $47,050 a year for a family of four.

“This is our life. This is our livelihood,” said Arrin Oswald, pointing to brochures from ballroom dancing competitions.

Oswald’s family organizes ballroom dancing competitions.

“It’s not like one has a job and the other doesn’t. We were all in it together so we’ve all been affected,” she said.

The Oswald’s have had to take out a mortgage on their home, which was already paid off.

Arrin Oswald’s gig as a Door Dash driver ended when their car needed thousands of dollars in repairs they couldn’t afford and hopes to access some of this mortgage assistance money.

“It would keep the burden off our back at least for 6 months. Until we can get the ball rolling with some work possibly,” she said.

The new money is only available to residents of Polk County who live outside Lakeland city limits.

City of Lakeland residents can still access rent and utility payment assistance through the CARE program.

As of this week, mortgage assistance funds are nearly all spent, according to city officials.

City residents can apply here at the city of Lakeland’s website.

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