City of Miami could provide $2M in rent, utility assistance in May

Program would be available to residents who lost their jobs due to coronavirus and make 60% or less of the area’s median income

Mayor Francis Suarez (Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Mayor Francis Suarez (Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

The city of Miami could offer rent and utility assistance to residents who lost their jobs, starting as early as May, possibly becoming one of the first cities in the U.S. to do so.

Mayor Francis Suarez announced the program during a virtual press conference on Friday. It’s subject to city commission approval at a meeting next week.

Using federal money, the city would provide up to $2.2 million, paying landlords and utility companies directly, Suarez said.

Tens of thousands of South Florida workers have lost their jobs since the pandemic began and non-essential businesses were forced to close their doors.

If approved, residents who are making 60 percent or less of the area median income and who lost their jobs due to Covid-19 can apply for the assistance beginning May 4 through a website that will be designated for the program and in person at specific NET offices. For a one-person household, 60 percent of the AMI is $38,400. For two people, it’s $43,920. For three people, it’s $49,380, according to the city’s website.

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Each household that applies, on a first come, first served basis, can receive up to $1,500 in assistance. The money is expected to be available as early as May 14.

“Obviously people are suffering tremendously at this particular moment and the city of Miami is stepping up through our Miami Helps program,” Suarez said.

On Thursday, the city commission approved a micro loan program and small business loan program using $1 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Suarez said. Forty percent, or $400,000, will be distributed to micro businesses that qualify, and the rest will be set aside for for-profit businesses, according to the Miami Herald.

Earlier this month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended evictions and foreclosures for a period of 45 days, allowing homeowners and renters to stay in their homes if they can’t pay their mortgages or rent due to Covid-19. But the emergency order does not provide financial assistance, nor does it prevent lenders and landlords from foreclosures or evictions once the order is lifted.

Lawyers believe there will be a “huge flood of cases” when the order is lifted, leading courts to be overwhelmed.