Staff continuing to try to streamline process
The Sarasota County Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) has disbursed $3 million to community residents who have suffered financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and staff continues to streamline the application process, the county has announced.
In the spring, the county received $13 million from the federal government for the program.
As of Sept. 17, ERAP had provided assistance to 423 households across Sarasota County, a news release notes. The Sarasota County Clerk of Circuit Court and County Comptroller’s office had issued a total of 1,025 rent and utility payments as of that date, the release adds.
“Over the past few weeks, we have really ramped up our efforts, issuing more checks,” and disbursing the highest amount of funds of any period during the program, said Sarasota County Emergency Rental Assistance Program Manager Laurel Varnell in the release. “ERAP staff continues to work as quickly as possible to make payments to eligible households,” she added.
Recently, ERAP transitioned to a self-certification process for household income data, allowing an applicant to attest to his or her income if the individual is unable to provide documentation, the release explains. Further, if the application already has been submitted, “a member of the ERAP team will reach out to the applicant if the form is needed,” the release points out. Applicants who have not yet submitted the information will be able to add the form directly into their applications, the release says.
Varnell noted in the release that the ability of applicants to self-attest to their income allows for flexibility with documentation requirements.
The ERAP Call Center has answered 6,053 calls since applications launched in the spring, and program ambassadors have logged more than 2,000 interactions with applicants, the release points out. The ambassadors are community volunteers who are on hand at area locations to assist persons in applying for the federal money.
“Sarasota County ERAP is committed to identifying further opportunities to streamline the application process as updated guidance is provided from the U.S. Department of Treasury,” the release says.
For more information on ERAP eligibility and required documents, frequently asked questions, and program ambassadors, visit scgov.net/rent or call 941-861-RENT (7368).