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Jax NAACP Calls for Investigation Into Pandemic Rental Aid Funds

A new study says on average someone would have to earn $24.90 per hour to rent a modest two-bedroom home on no more than 30% of their pay. That's far more than the federal minimum wage.
RICH PEDRONCELLI
/
AP

The Jacksonville Chapter of the NAACP is calling for an investigation into how the city distributed rent relief money during the pandemic. 

The letter sent to city officials comes as the federal eviction moratorium expired over the weekend, potentially impacting thousands of low-income renters whose income may have been impacted by the pandemic. 

“United Way needs to stand up and do the right thing as it relates to getting these funds out to these folks who need it.” Rumlin said. 

Jacksonville received $28.9 million dollars to help people stay current on rent and utilities during the pandemic. Of that, $23 million went to the nonprofit United Way of Northeast Florida to distribute to renters and their landlords, and the remainder went directly to JEA to help cover unpaid utility bills. 

In response to questions from WJCT News Monday, a spokesperson for the city of Jacksonville said $5.6 million was distributed to almost 2,000 households. The city said another $1.5 million would be distributed this week. 

“For perspective, the amount of funding that United Way and its partner agencies have approved for payment at this point is 34% of the total funds available, which far exceeds the national average of 6% and the state average of 2%,” the spokesperson said. 

“We take our partnership with the City of Jacksonville to administer the Federal Emergency Rent Assistance very seriously,” said United Way of Northeast Florida President and CEO Michelle Braun. “We know how critical it is to deploy these funds and to do so responsibly.”

The federal ban on evictions was instituted in October 2020 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a public health measure, since homelessness would expose people more easily to COVID-19. First meant to expire in December, the moratorium was extended several times, until the Supreme Court finally ruled it could not stand without additional action from Congress. 

The ban did not prevent landlords from filing all evictions. Rather, it protected renters who were unable to pay rent due to financial hardship like a layoff, substantial loss of household income, or medical expenses related to COVID-19. Evictions for other reasons were not impacted by the moratorium. 

Data from Princeton University’s Eviction Lab show that evictions in Duval County have been creeping back up to near pre-pandemic levels since they cratered during Florida’s short-lived state-level eviction ban. There were 297 evictions filed between July 11 and July 18, the last week with reliable numbers. 

Contact Sydney Boles at sboles@wjct.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.