COVID IN THE COMMUNITY

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Rental evictions a worry as a federal mandate expiration date draws near.

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories about COVID-19 and its impact on residents in Volusia County, especially those living in Daytona Beach’s historically Black neighborhoods.

Shanais Valdes, of Hollywood filed an unemployment claim back in March, but it took months for it to be approved. The single mom of two became behind on her rent and had to sell furniture and use her savings to get by. Many Floridians are now in the same situation – behind on rent with the federal eviction protection order about to end.

CARLINE JEAN/SUN SENTINEL/TNS

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

Another dark reality of the pandemic is that many Americans soon could find themselves homeless.

Nationwide, a disproportionate number of Blacks and Latinos are facing evictions.

Florida’s moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, ended on Oct. 1. A federal government mandate stopping evictions is set to end on Dec. 31.

Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry is concerned about residents being evicted and encourages them to apply for the city’s coronavirus rent/mortgage relief fund. Volusia County also has a coronavirus rent/mortgage assistance program.

“I hope that people do. Many have. I am concerned because it’s not going to be sufficient. Some people are so far behind,” he said.

“Like any program it has certain requirements. Everyone needs to do their part. People are sleeping on couches. Folks are going to have to reach out to family. It’s a bad situation and as we go further in the pandemic it may get worst.’’

Housing Authority help

The Daytona Beach Housing Authority has taken measures for those in both its public housing and Section 8 programs to avoid evictions.

That includes automatic rent adjustments for those working in hotels, motels, restaurants and bars as far back as March.

“Those in public housing shouldn’t have evictions. They should contact their property managers. We’re also working with landlords and those on Section 8. People have gone back to work but aren’t working as many hours. We have been working with our residents to make sure their rent is manageable based on their income,’’ said Daytona Beach Housing Authority CEO Terrill Bates.

The Housing Authority also is working with the city with its rent/mortgage assistance program.

Bates noted, “We are helping the city with their program. People don’t have to be in any of our programs, which is a first for the Housing Authority.”

Working with tenants

Gerald Chester owns property that he leases to businesses and others that he rents to residents. He does this through his profession as president and CEO of the Central Florida Community Development Corporation (CFCDC).

Community Development Corporations (CDC) are non-profit organizations that support and revitalizes communities, particularly those impoverished and struggling. They often are located in Black or minority communities.

“We’ve been able to avoid evictions by working with tenants. I’ve also been able to get people to apply for rent and mortgage assistance with the city and county programs. Those who don’t qualify, I have been able to work out a payment agreement,’’ he told the Daytona Times.

Economic impact

The mayor said he also has taken phone calls from landlords and renters, including those in the 32114 zip code.

The Florida Department of Health of Volusia County has labeled the zip code as the least healthiest in the area.

“It’s one of my bigger concerns. It is one of the poorest areas in the city. The poorest people are being hit the hardest. 32114 is definitely a concern. People need resources to be successful. Those with residual income are doing better than others,” said Henry.

Landlords are also losing money; many depend on rental property for their income.

“We are all seeing an economic impact. I have a 30 percent drop in rental income. We aren’t making money that we normally do. I am working with residents,” Chester noted.

“Those who don’t qualify for assistance – we’re doing alternative payment plans. With private property, we’ve had to let them know the difference of what government can or can’t do.’’

‘A big shift’

The Housing Authority has changed dramatically during the pandemic, including doing more online with Zoom meetings and processing documents online.

Bates emphasized, “We’ve had to change our business model. We are using a lot of technology instead of face-to-face to keep both residents and staff safe. It’s been a big shift.

“I think it is good for both our customers and agency. You use technology to do everything. It’s a learning experience for residents and staff,’’ she added.

Groceries and masks

The Housing Authority also has teamed up with Halifax Urban Ministries to provide food for public housing residents. It started with 625 bags of groceries a week in March but is now down to 300.

“We wanted to help with food since a lot of people had so much uncertainty at the beginning. We stopped doing the senior developments a few weeks ago. It was more food than needed,’’ Bates related. “Our maintenance department bags groceries with volunteers at the Ocean Center, then delivers every week.’’

The Housing Authority has also delivered masks and cleaning supplies to residents.

It recently purchased 200 laptops to assist children with school.

Dealing with isolation

Bates said another challenge is isolation, especially for the elderly.

“It’s been hard for them and families to be isolated for so long. Another challenge is mental health. It’s a challenge – not just for our people but everyone. We have Stewart MarchmanAct counselors on site at senior sites,” she shared.

As of Daytona Times’ Wednesday deadline, there were 18,632 confirmed coronavirus and 396 deaths in Volusia County, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Blacks represent 2,131 of the cases, 43 deaths and 168 of hospitalizations in the county.

Note: Do you have COVID-19 story you’d like to share that might help others? If so, contact the Daytona Times at news@daytonatimes.com

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