Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated April 1, 2021
*PLEASE NOTE THAT THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY SETS PRIMARY PROGRAM GUIDELINES, ALLOWING GRANTEES (ST. LUCIE COUNTY) TO DESIGN AND IMPLEMENT FURTHER PROGRAM CRITERIA TO PREVENT INSTANCES OF FRAUD, WASTE, AND ABUSE. BOTH THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY AND ST. LUCIE COUNTY RESERVE THE RIGHT TO AMEND PROGRAM GUIDELINES AT ANY TIME. DISCLAIMER RULES SUBJECT TO CHANGE AFTER APRIL 1, 2021*
“This project is being supported, in whole or in part, by federal award number ERA0285 awarded to St. Lucie County by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.”
WHAT PROGRAMS ARE AVAILABLE?
St. Lucie County is offering two financial assistance programs to assist renter and owner-occupied households who have been negatively financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
1) The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) provides up to twelve (12) months of financial assistance that can be used for rent (past due, current month), up to three (3) months of future rent if funding is available, and utilities. Applicants requesting utility assistance may only request for utilities in arrears (past due) and the current month due at the time the application is approved, with proof of current or past due bills.
2) The Mortgage Assistance Program provides up to twelve (12) months of financial assistance that can be used towards mortgage (past due, current month), up to three (3) months of future mortgage payments if funding is available, and utilities. Home equity loans and second mortgages may also be considered. Applicants requesting utility assistance may only request for utilities in arrears (past due) and the current month due at the time the application is approved, with proof of current or past due bills.
WHO CAN APPLY?
Individuals and households residing in Port St. Lucie, Fort Pierce, St. Lucie Village, and other unincorporated areas of St. Lucie County may apply for Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) assistance.
Participants in the Treasure Coast Homeless Services Council Eviction Diversion Program may also apply for ERAP, but must be referred directly by Treasure Coast Homeless Services Council staff and indicate they are a participant in the Eviction Diversion Program on their application.
Households that receive monthly Federal subsidies (e.g., Housing Choice Voucher, Section 8 Tenant-Based or Project Based Rental Assistance, etc.) may be eligible to apply for ERAP, but only for the unsubsidized portion of their monthly rental payment amount. In such cases, eligibility will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Individuals and households residing in St. Lucie County and its municipalities may apply for the Mortgage Assistance Program.
To be eligible for either program, residents must qualify for unemployment, have experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic on or after April 1, 2020. Further, an applicant’s household income must be at or below 80% of the area median income. Additional qualifications based on income and residency may apply.
HOW DO I APPLY?
From the St. Lucie County Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program home page, click the “Apply Now” tab. Using a valid e-mail address, register with the online Neighborly Software portal. Registration will require that you create a password to be used throughout the process. Please write down your selected password, as St. Lucie County cannot reset your password. You will receive an e-mail from Neighborly Software to complete the registration. If after 5-10 minutes you have not received this email, please check your junk/spam folder. If you do not receive an e-mail from Neighborly Software, please do not re-register. Contact the Neighborly Software technical support team by clicking on the question mark (?) icon at the bottom right corner of the registration page.
WHEN CAN I APPLY?
The St. Lucie County Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance Programs open at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, March 15, 2021. Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis until all available funds are committed. No assistance shall be provided beyond September 30, 2022.
DO I NEED TO COMPLETE AN APPLICATION RIGHT AWAY WHEN THE APPLICATION PROCESS OPENS?
Due to the widespread impact of the pandemic on our local community, we anticipate a high volume of requests. Potential applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as they are able. Grants will no longer be made once available funds are committed.
WHAT IF I NEED HELP COMPLETING THE APPLICATION? CAN I GET ASSISTANCE?
Yes. You may obtain assistance by calling the ERAP Public Information Line at (772) 462-1705 or by e-mailing ERAP@stlucieco.org.
Assistance with application development and submission is also available at all branches of the St. Lucie County Library System (Port St. Lucie Branch, Morningside Branch, Hurston Branch, Lewis Branch, Kilmer Branch, and Lakewood Park Branch).
WHAT DOCUMENTATION IS REQUIRED?
Applicants will be required to upload LEGIBLE electronic copies of documents, as listed below, into the online Neighborly Software portal. Illegible documents will not be considered. If approved, the applicant will be required to sign an Affidavit of Duplication of Benefits, Affidavit of Income and Impact from COVID-19, and an Authorization to Release Information to St. Lucie County.
Please gather the following documents prior to starting your application:
- Proof of U.S. Citizenship or Residency for Applicant (Provide one from options below)
- Valid & Current Florida Driver’s License or Florida Identification with a STAR
- social security card
- birth certificate
- Valid & current U.S. passport
- Certificate of Naturalization
- “Green card” INS forms I-151 or I-551
- Proof of Identification for Applicant (Provide one from options below)
- Valid and Current Driver’s License or State Identification
- Voter Registration Card
- Veterans Administration Identification
- Proof that Co-Applicant Resides at the property, as applicable (Provide one from options below)
- Co-applicant is listed on Lease
- Valid & Current County Driver’s License or State Identification with address of the property
- Co-applicant DEO Unemployment Determination Letter with address of the property
- Co-applicant current paystub with address of the property
- Current Utility Bill in the Co-applicant’s name with the address of the property
- Proof of Qualifying COVID-19 Impact on or after April 1, 2020 (Provide one from options below)
- Florida DEO Unemployment Determination Letter or History Log
- Signed and dated (by employer) layoff or furlough notice/letter stating layoff/furlough and paystub from immediately prior to layoff/furlough listing the name of the business and applicant/co-applicant name
- Signed and dated (by employer) termination of job notice/letter and paystub from immediately prior to termination listing the name of the business and applicant/co-applicant name
- Signed and dated (by employer) notice/letter stating reduction in workforce by business and paystub from immediately prior to reduction in workforce listing the name of the business and applicant/co-applicant name
- Proof of reduction in straight time hours (reduction in overtime is not allowable) In the form of a signed and dated (by employer) notice/letter stating reduction in straight time hours OR one paystub from pre-COVID and one paystub demonstrating COVID-19 impact
- Documentation that employer office/place of business has closed (e.g. Signed and dated Notice to Employees from employer, Business Website shows closure, or newspaper article) and a paystub from immediately prior to closure listing the name of the business and applicant/co-applicant name
- Self-Employed: Must show loss of income for the business and staff. This can be done with two consecutive bank statements pre-COVID and two consecutive bank statements during COVID impact from all business accounts and all personal accounts.
- Provide a fully executed rental lease or mortgage documentation where the lease/mortgage is in the applicant’s name and the applicant is responsible for monthly rent/mortgage payments. The lease/mortgage must cover all the amounts for assistance requested.
- The current lease/mortgage must be in the name of the applicant and include contact information for the landlord. All lease/mortgage pages must be uploaded, including Utility Addenda and Special provisions that include any additional charges/fees, and must be signed.
- If your lease has expired, the expired lease must include a clause that allows for a conversion to month-to-month lease or a written statement, signed and dated by both you and the landlord, acknowledging a month-to-month lease arrangement will be required.
- A Signed Statement from Landlord or Mortgage Lender or a copy of the most recent Rental Ledger or Mortgage coupon stating the amount owed.
- Proof of income (Provide one from options below)
- Signed and filed 2020 1040 IRS Tax Returns and the e-mail response from electronic submission for all members of the entire household. If there are multiple filings, provide copies of fillings for all members of the household.
- Two (2) months of income statements (paystubs, unemployment compensation, retirement, Social Security, Disability, etc.) for all household members
- Documentation for all dependents under the age of 18 living in the household (Provide one from options below)
- Certified Copy of Birth Certificate from Florida Department of Health (birth certificates issued by a hospital are not permitted)
- Florida driver’s license (for those ages 16-17)
- Social security card
- School shot records
- If you are a landlord applying on behalf of the tenant, you must include a signed ERA Tenant Authorization Form
WHAT IS THE PROCESS?
- Submitted applications are assigned, to a St. Lucie County staff person for review. Prioritization of assignments is given to those applications that demonstrate one or both of two factors: 1) households with income at or below 50% of the area median income and 2) households with someone that has been unemployed for 90 days or more prior to the application.
- The assigned staff person will review your application for completeness.
- You will receive an e-mail notification from Neighborly Software with a Task assignment if additional information is required for the staff person to complete the review. Timeliness in providing this information is essential to your ability to obtain assistance. You must respond quickly. NOTE: Much of the correspondence for this program is via e-mail. Please regularly monitor your spam/junk e-mail folder for communications from Neighborly Software.
- If the application is complete and you are found to be eligible, you will be contacted to complete and electronically sign additional required documents through DocuSign. You must respond quickly.
- St. Lucie County staff will then contact your landlord/mortgage lender for verification of months past due, amount due, and invoicing and payment information. The landlord/mortgage lender must agree to participate in the program and provide the required documentation in a timely manner in order for the payment to be processed. Your landlord/lender must complete the invoice document and submit a W-9. You may be requested to assist with collecting this information from your landlord.
- Once all documents have been electronically signed and returned and all verifications completed, you will be e-mailed a Grant Award Notification letter.
- Funds will be paid directly to your landlord/mortgage lender/utility provider.
Applicants may sign into the online Neighborly Software portal to check the status of their application at any time. Please note that if your application is in the status of “In Progress,” it has not been completely submitted and is not yet under review. You must ensure that the application is complete and all documentation has been uploaded before the application enters “Submitted” status.
Please check your e-mail frequently for communications from Neighborly Software or ERAP staff.
I STARTED AN APPLICATION; MAY I RETURN TO IT OR DO I NEED TO START ANOTHER?
Once you start an application for the St. Lucie County Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program you are able to return to the same application upon signing in to the online Neighborly Software portal. Do not start a second application.
I APPLIED FOR THE ST. LUCIE CARES PROGRAM; MAY I APPLY FOR ST. LUCIE COUNTY EMERGENCY RENTAL OR MORTAGE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM?
Yes. You may apply for the St. Lucie County Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program if you applied for/received assistance through St. Lucie CARES. You cannot, however, apply for ERAP assistance for months for which you have already received assistance.
As the funding and eligibility criteria of the two programs are different, you may not meet the eligibility criteria for the St. Lucie County Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program, even if you previously qualified for St. Lucie CARES.
I STARTED AN APPLICATION FOR ST. LUCIE CARES ASSISTANCE PROGRAM; MAY I RETURN TO IT OR DO I NEED TO START ANOTHER APPLICATION?
No. This program utilizes a different application system than St. Lucie CARES. You will need to register in the online Neighborly Software portal and start a new application for the St. Lucie County Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program.
I DO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO THE INTERNET OR A COMPUTER, HOW DO I APPLY FOR ST. LUCIE COUNTY EMERGENCY RENTAL AND MORTGAGE ASSISTANCE PRORGAM?
If you do not have access to the Internet or a computer you may visit any St. Lucie County Library System branch (Port St. Lucie Branch, Morningside Branch, Hurston Branch, Lewis Branch, Kilmer Branch, and Lakewood Park Branch) for assistance. Space is limited as social distancing is in place.
You may also obtain assistance through your landlord or by contacting the St. Lucie County Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program Public Information Line at (772) 462-1705 or by e-mail at ERAP@stlucieco.org.
ASSISTANCE AND FUNDING
HOW MUCH/HOW MANY MONTHS OF ASSISTANCE MAY I RECEIVE?
Approved applicants may receive a maximum of twelve (12) months of assistance, to include arrears, current, and up to three (3) months of future rent/mortgage payments, if housing instability can be proven. Individuals will be awarded assistance based on their specific documented needs for delinquent rent/mortgage payments, which may also include landlord-paid past-due utilities that have accumulated due to COVID-19 on or after April 1, 2020. No assistance may be provided for rent/mortgage payments due prior to April 1, 2020. The amount of grant assistance is not to exceed the actual amount required to be paid on your behalf or the maximum amount allowed under the program guidelines, whichever is less. Payments will be made directly to the landlord/mortgage lender/utility company. At no time shall more than twelve (12) months of assistance be provided. No assistance shall be provided beyond September 30, 2022.
MAY I APPLY FOR RENTAL ASSISTANCE TO PAY FOR RENT IN A RENTAL UNIT THAT I DO NOT YET OCCUPY?
Yes. If you have been approved by a landlord, can provide a signed lease agreement, and can prove that this will be your primary residence, you may be eligible for up to three (3) months of rental assistance on the new unit, provided that all other required documentation is submitted and the application is approved.
MAY I APPLY FOR RENTAL ASSISTANCE TO PAY FOR “MOVING-IN” COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH A NEW RENTAL UNIT?
No. ERAP will pay up to three (3) months of prospective rent on a new rental unit that you will occupy (with documented signed lease agreement, proof of primary residence, etc.), but security deposits, application fees, or other moving costs are not eligible activities.
CAN THIS FUNDING PAY FOR PAST DUE UTILITIES?
Yes, but only if the utility company is a willing participant and willing to accept payment on behalf of the household member whose name is on the utility account and who is also the applicant or co-applicant. A signed willing participant letter must be provided by the utility company in order for utility costs to be eligible.
In cases where utilities are paid by the landlord, the landlord may request financial assistance as an applicant. Tenants, however, may not apply for utility assistance when their utilities are in the name of their landlord.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO PROCESS MY APPLICATION AND RECEIVE THE FUNDING? WHEN WILL I FIND OUT IF I WAS SELECTED/APPROVED?
Due to the widespread impact of the pandemic on our local community, we anticipate a high volume of requests, which will impact processing time. Assistance requests will be processed as quickly as possible.
Processing time will depend on the volume of applications being received, prioritization and completeness of the application submitted, landlord response time, eligibility determination review, management review, and payment processing. The assignment and initial review is estimated to take place within 21 days of application submission. Eligibility determination and payment processing is estimated to take between 45-60 days after application submission. The average timeline from submission to funding receipt is expected to be 4-8 weeks.
WILL RECEIVING THIS ASSISTANCE DISQUALIFY ME FROM OTHER TYPES OF STATE OR FEDERAL AID (I.E., UNEMPLOYMENT)?
No, but St. Lucie County Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance may not be used to pay for expenses that have already been paid by any other source. There cannot be duplication of benefit (rental or mortgage assistance received from any other source, i.e. St. Lucie CARES). If you receive a duplication of benefit after you receive St. Lucie County Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance you will be required to repay the funds to St. Lucie County.
IF I RECEIVE ASSISTANCE THROUGH ST. LUCIE COUNTY EMERGENCY RENTAL AND MORTGAGE ASSISTANCE DO I HAVE TO PAY IT BACK?
No, this assistance is a grant and does not have to be paid back. If you receive a duplication of benefit (rental or mortgage assistance received from any other source, i.e. St. Lucie CARES) after you receive St. Lucie County Emergency Rental or Mortgage Assistance, however, you will be required to repay the funds to St. Lucie County.
WHERE DID THIS FUNDING COME FROM?
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds are provided by the U.S. Department of Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance, as set forth in Section 501 of Division N of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, Pub. L. No. 116-260. The Mortgage Assistance Program funds are St. Lucie County General Revenue funds.
I HAVE RECEIVED NOTIFICATION OF EVICTION OR FORECLOSURE DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS. WHERE CAN I FIND HELP?
Visit HUD’s Coronavirus Resources website or contact Florida Rural Legal Services (888) 582-3410 for more information.
I WAS UNEMPLOYED PRIOR TO APRIL 1, 2020, BUT HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO FIND EMPLOYMENT DUE TO COVID-19. AM I ELIGIBLE? WHAT DOCUMENTATION DO I NEED TO PROVIDE?
Maybe. If you qualify for unemployment, you are eligible. You will need to upload a copy of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) Determination Letter or a copy of the online History Log. The unemployment application for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) is not sufficient documentation. If you do not qualify for unemployment, you must be able to document that you have experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19 on or after April 1, 2020 (Ex. If another adult within the household, who contributes financially, became unemployed or underemployed after April 1, 2020). Eligibility in such cases will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
I HAD A JOB AFTER APRIL 1, 2020, BUT HAD TO QUIT IN ORDER TO PROVIDE HOMESCHOOLING OR CARETAKER SERVICES DUE TO COVID-19. AM I ELIGIBLE?
Yes. You will be asked to describe your circumstances in the application. You should provide copies of income history or bank statements clearly showing pre-COVID employment income and paystubs from your employer or bank statements showing the reduction in income during the time period you were impacted by COVID-19 (after April 1, 2020).
I RENT A ROOM, NOT THE ENTIRE HOUSING UNIT. AM I ELIGIBLE?
No. Room rentals are not eligible for this assistance. The landlord may not reside in the same house as a tenant/applicant.
WHAT IF MY LANDLORD/MORTGAGE LENDER/UTILITY PROVIDER REFUSES TO ACCEPT DIRECT PAYMENT FROM THE PROGRAM? AM I STILL ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE ASSISTANCE?
No. Program staff will allow the applicant up to fourteen (14) calendar days to provide written proof of participation, signed by the landlord/mortgage lender/utility provider, after an application is submitted. No response or a response denying participation will result in an application being denied and closed out. The case file will be noted with outreach attempts taken by the applicant and program staff.