Emergency Rental Assistance Program
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I. OVERVIEW 

The U.S. Department of Treasury awarded Okaloosa County $6,363,378.80, ratified by Okaloosa County BCC on January 6, 2021, to be disbursed as set forth in Section 501 of Title V of Division N of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. 

II. OBJECTIVE OF THE PROGRAM FOR OKALOOSA COUNTY: 

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERA) is to be used to provide Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance to low income households located in Okaloosa County experiencing hardships due to COVID-19 through December 31, 2021 as long as funds remain available. The application period is planned to be open from March 29th through November 15th, 2021. 

III. GRANT ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE: 

Assistance may be provided for the following: 

  1. Rent 
  2. Rental Arrears 
  3. Late fees associated with rental arrears up to $100.00 
  4. Utilities 
  5. Utility arrears 
  6. Rental Deposits (With Demonstrated ability to Sustain) 
  7. Utility Deposits 

Eligible households can request assistance for up to 12 months of rent with no funding cap. An additional 3 months may be approved by County Staff if rental arrears warrant and funds are available. Advance funding will be limited to not more than 3 months at a time. No award shall be made for arrears incurred prior to March 13th, 2020. There must be a current lease in effect, and the period for which assistance is being requested must be covered by same lease. 

IV. DISTRIBUTION OF FUNDS: 

Funds will be paid directly to landlords/property managers and utility service providers. Applicants will be approved and assisted on a first qualified, first assisted basis. Prioritization will be given to eligible applicants as outlined below. 

  1. The County can approve an applicant to receive emergency rental assistance for up to 3 months at a time. Households may reapply for additional assistance at the end of the three-month period, if needed, provided funds are available and the maximum time limit for assistance has not been exceeded. 
  2. If the applicant is on a month-to-month lease, they must have lived at that residence for a minimum of 3 months. 
  3. Utility assistance can be provided as part of rent or on its own. Once approved, the applicant must submit subsequent monthly invoice(s) for approved utility payments. Households may reapply for additional assistance at the end of the three-month period, if needed, and the overall time limit for assistance is not exceeded using a recertification application.
    • Utilities include separately-stated electricity, gas, water and sewer, trash removal and energy costs, such as fuel oil. Telecommunication services (telephone, internet, cable) delivered to the rental dwelling are not considered utilities and therefore do not qualify for assistance. 
  4. Rental assistance provided to an eligible household should not be duplicative of any other local, state, or federally funded rental assistance provided to such household. An attestation will be required for all adults living in the household. 
  5. Households receiving monthly rent subsidies shall not receive more that the tenant-owed portion of the rent. 
  6. Households receiving assistance through Section 8 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are ineligible to participate in this program.

V. HOUSEHOLD ELIGIBILITY: 

To be eligible, a household must be obligated to pay rent on a residential dwelling located in Okaloosa County and the County must determine that: 

  1. One or more individuals within the household has qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the COVID-19 outbreak; 
  2. One or more individuals within the household can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and 
  3. The household has a household income at or below 80% of area median income as determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

All household members 18 and over will need to provide income and asset information. 

VI. HUD INCOME AREA MEDIAN LIMIT CHART: 

INSERT CHART HERE

VII. PRIORITIZATION: 

  1. As required by Title V of Section N of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, the County will prioritize households that are below 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI) or who have been unemployed for the last 90 days. The County may carry out this prioritization each week by first processing applications of households below 50% AMI or who are currently unemployed and have been for the last 90 days before the remaining applications (between 50%-80% AMI) are processed. 
  2. Depending on volume of applications, they may not be able to get to applications in the 50%-80% AMI range in the same week they are submitted.

VIII. APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS/PROCESS: 

  1. Applications may be submitted by residents seeking rental assistance, as well as landlords on behalf of their residents. 
  2. Applicants must complete the online application at www.myokaloosa.com and provide copies of all necessary documents. 
  3. To assist applicants who do not have access to a computer, the County will establish times and locations for providing assistance with completing the application. Days and times of available assistance will be posted on the County’s website. 
  4. County representatives will complete and submit the online application on behalf of the applicant ONLY if all documents and information can be provided. The applicant must bring required documents to the assistance site. 
  5. Any missing documents will cause a delay and possible denial in assistance. 

IX. REQUIRED DOCUMENTS: 

  • Applicant and all adult members of the household 18 years of age or older shall provide at least the following documents in order to verify household income: 
    • Copy of 2020 tax return(s) form 1040 for each household member, except as provided in e., below 
    • State issued photo ID 
    • Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) unemployment benefits determination letter, as applicable 
    • Letter from employer/former employer documenting reduction in hours/income 
    • If the applicant or other adult member of the household is not required to file a 2020 tax return or if the applicant’s 2020 or other adult household member’s tax return does not represent the current household income, additional information will be required to determine annual household income. If this process is used to determine household income, then the process is required to be repeated every 3 months prior to any additional award. In addition to the items listed above, the following will need to be provided:
      1. Pay stubs for last 2 months; 
      2. Bank statements for checking and savings accounts for the preceding two months for each account; 
      3. Court orders for any income including but not limited to, child support and alimony; 
      4. Social Security or Disability Benefits award letters; 
      5. Retirement statements;
      6. Proof of any other recurring monthly income such as assistance provided from a family member or friend; and 
      7. Proof of any assets such as Stocks bonds, CD’s or other investment accounts 
  1. Landlord/Property Manager Documents:
    • Copy of Ledger showing amounts due 
    • W-9 
    • Landlord/Property Manager Agreement 
    • Copy of full lease agreement, including any addendums, signed by the applicant and the landlord/property manager 
  1. If a landlord/property manager applies for assistance on behalf of a resident of a rental property, the landlord/property manager must secure the resident’s written authorization and must submit an individual application for each household that includes all the required documentation from each household resident of 18 (i.e., identification, pay stubs, tax return, etc.). In this case, the County will communicate directly with the landlord/property manager for any follow up, including if there are incomplete aspects to the resident’s portion of the application. The landlord/property manager will have to collect any outstanding documentation from the resident and submit it to the County. Note: that the resident who is the head of household must sign an attestation to finalize the application. 
  2. If applicant’s income was not impacted directly or indirectly due to COVID-19, but the income of another adult household member contributing income to the house was, there must be proof that the other household member resides at the subject address. This may be done in the form of an attestation. The aforementioned attestation must be accompanied by proof that the household member has paid a minimum of 3 months of rent or utilities (or portion thereof) at the application address. This proof can be in the form of bank statement, cancelled checks, or similar documentation. 
  3. Utility Documents: 
    • Utility bill with a service address located within Okaloosa County limits 
    • Applicant or household member is named on the utility bill. 

The following forms can be downloaded below:

Zero Income Declaration

Lease Terms Attestation

IRS Form W-9

Cash Contribution Verification

ERA Program Participant Agreement

X. Review Process

To ensure compliance with the U. S. Department of Treasury’s policies and procedures and to mitigate fraud the following review process will be used.

  1. The County will use an online process to receive applications. 
  2. Once an application is accepted, it will under the following levels of review prior to submittal for payment to the Clerk of Court:
    • a. the County Attorney for completeness and legal sufficiency,
    • b. the Grants and Housing Program Coordinator for verification of income and determination of award, and
    • c. the Office of Budget and Management for final quality control.
    • An application that fails any of the above reviews will be returned for correction.
  3. As a result of the review process, it may take up to one a month for a completed application to be processed and payment to be made.
  4. When an application is complete and has been approved by the Grants and Housing Program Coordinator, the County will send the applicant and the landlord or property manager (as may be applicable) an agreement which will need to be executed before payment is issued.

XI. Continuing/Additional Assistance 

If applicant requires additional assistance after the initial award, an application for additional assistance will be required. 

Additional documentation may be required to determine subsequent assistance. 

XII. Continuing Obligations of Applicant 

It shall be the obligation of the applicant to provide any additional documentation as may be required during the review process in order to make determination of award. 

Have questions about an Assistance Program or application?  Visit the FAQ page to find more information.

Applications are open until the close date or until funds are exhausted.

Okaloosa County, FL

1250 N. Eglin Parkway – Suite 102

Shalimar, FL 32579

850-460-3316