County earmarks $8 million for COVID-19 rent, mortgage and food aid

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Volusia County rolled out two new programs Tuesday to help local residents suffering financial impacts from the COVID-19 crisis, earmarking $5 million for emergency rent and mortgage assistance and another $3 million for food aid. The two new programs are on top of a $10 million grant program the county launched last week to provide financial aid to small businesses.

To provide additional COVID-19 relief, the Volusia County Council on Tuesday agreed to expand the small business assistance grant program and also paved the way for a grant program to assist struggling non-profit agencies. The money for the programs is coming from federal coronavirus relief funds that the county received from the federal government as part of the CARES Act.

The qualifications

To residents who meet the eligibility criteria, the county is offering grants of up to $1,500 per month for a maximum of three months to help with rent or mortgage payments. The County Council unanimously agreed Tuesday to allocate the money to fund the grant program and food aid.

“Volusia County residents have suffered serious financial injury as a result of the COVID-19 crisis,” states a memorandum about the grant program presented to the County Council. “Many of our residents are in need of financial assistance to maintain basic necessities such as shelter.”

To qualify, the rent or mortgage must have been current as of March 13, 2020 in order to qualify. Also, the dwelling unit must be located in Volusia County and be the applicant’s primary residence. Applicants must meet income eligibility requirements to qualify. For example, for families of up to four people, the household income must be no more than $77,880 to qualify.

For applicants who meet the eligibility criteria and are approved for the grant, the county will make payments directly to the landlord or mortgage holder. Applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis and can be obtained by calling the Volusia County Department of Community Services at 386-736-5955.

Business program expanded

With non-profit agencies reporting shortages in food supplies for residents in need, the county also agreed Tuesday to provide $3 million in relief funds for food aid as part of a new Feed A Family grant program. The county is planning to contract with Food Brings Hope, The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia, United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties and Halifax Urban Ministries to purchase and distribute the food.

Also Tuesday, the council agreed to expand the county’s small business assistance grant program that was launched last week. Initially, money was set aside for a maximum, one-time grant of $3,000 for small businesses with 25 employees or less or the equivalent number of part-time employees to help offset financial losses caused by the coronavirus.

As of Monday afternoon, the county had received 1,690 applications. On Tuesday, the council agreed to expand the program with maximum $5,000 grants to businesses with between 26-50 employees or the equivalent number of part-time employees. Grant requirements and applications are available on the county’s business resources web site: www.volusiabusinessresources.com/#homeSection348662

Relaunch Volusia

The council also laid the groundwork for the establishment of a $2.5 million COVID-19 grant program to assist non-profit agencies in the community. The details of that program are expected to be ironed out at a special meeting of the County Council next Tuesday, May 26, at 10 a.m.

The rental, mortgage and business assistance grants and the food aid are part of Relaunch Volusia, the county’s plan for resuming full county services, programs and facilities and helping the community recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. And county officials say more help is on the way, given the federal funds that it has received to help the community mend.

“The staff is connected as they’ve ever been to these communities,” County Manager George Recktenwald told council members. “I think that the message here is that we’re not just spending it all at once, but we have it to spend. And we are looking and we want to make sure that it is spent wisely – invested wisely in the community. But it will get spent.”

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