Miami commission approves rent, utility assistance for low-income households

Independent contractors, Realtors and gig workers are not eligible

Miami /
Apr.April 30, 2020 04:00 PM
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (Credit: Eric Espada/Getty Images)

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (Credit: Eric Espada/Getty Images)

Miami low-income residents who recently lost their jobs can start applying for rent and utility assistance at noon on Monday. But private contractors, or those who already are receiving rental subsidies, or are behind on their payments are not eligible.

The Miami City Commission on Thursday unanimously approved allocating $6.9 million in COVID-19-related assistance. That includes $2 million in federal and state grant money for households making 60 percent of Miami-Dade County’s median income. Under HUD guidelines that means a one-person household earning less than $38,400 a year; a two-person household earning less than $43,920 a year; a three-person household earning less than $49,380 a year; or a four-person household making less than $54,840 a year.

The assistance will be given out for only five days “or until enough applications have been received to deplete the funding available for this program,” according to a memo from the city’s department of housing and community development. A press release issued by the city Thursday afternoon further clarified that the application period ends at 5 p.m. on May 8. Assistance will also be limited to $1,500 per household.

According to RentJungle.com, rent within the city of Miami averages $1,912 a month for a one-bedroom, and $2,477 a month for a two-bedroom.

Applicants must provide proof that they lost their jobs after March 1, proof that they’ve paid rent up to February, have a picture Florida ID with a city of Miami address, proof of income, and a current water or utility bill. Payments will flow directly to landlords or utility companies. Applications for assistance must be made online at this webpage.

Self-employed individuals will not be eligible for this program, according to the city’s memo. Although Congress passed a bill that allows out-of-work, self-employed Realtors, gig workers and freelancers to receive $600 a week, along with other unemployed individuals, Florida’s unemployment system did not start accepting applications from private contractors until April 22, according to a published report by WKMG News 6 in Orlando. Due to glitches in Florida’s unemployment system, the state has the worst backlog of unemployment claims in the United States, with seven out of eight applicants still waiting for their claims to be processed.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order April 2 banning evictions and foreclosures for 45 days. Once that order is lifted, experts have told The Real Deal that there will be a “huge flood” of eviction cases.

Even before the pandemic hit, the city of Miami was in the midst of an affordable housing crisis due to rising rents and increasing property values. The city’s department of housing memo points out that “35.4 percent of city residents were spending more than 50 percent of their household income on housing.”

Prior to the pandemic, the city was exploring ways to boost affordable housing in the city. An affordable housing master plan produced by Florida International University on behalf of the city recommended leveraging $85 million in bond money to build 32,000 affordable rental units. That plan, however, was not accepted by Miami officials. Instead, they’re exploring commissioner Joe Carollo’s idea of seeking $250 million in loans and grants to develop 2,500 affordable condo units.


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