Funds remain available for Sarasota County’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program

By Laurel Varnell
Guest Columnist

Laurel Varnell. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

The Sarasota County Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) has distributed more than $11 million to aid Sarasota County residents with their rent and utilities over the course of the last year, but more help is available.

Sarasota County began accepting ERAP applications on May 5, 2021, after receiving a total of $17.2 million from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Since then, county staff members have worked diligently to distribute that funding as quickly and responsibly as possible, assisting 900 households with a total of 8,400 months of rent and 3,500 months of utility payments.

The program also relies on social services organizations and local businesses, along with other community partners, to assist with outreach, providing feedback, and helping residents submit applications. These collaborations show that our community can come together to help those most in need.

This funding has been a critical lifeline to many Sarasota families, keeping residents housed and ensuring their lights and water remain running. After the eviction moratorium ended last August, several active eviction proceedings have been dropped because of funding provided by ERAP.

In an ongoing survey given to funded ERAP applicants, over 90% of respondents said receiving Sarasota County ERAP help prevented an eviction or loss of their home, and 85% of respondents said that receiving rental assistance allowed them to pay other critical bills.

As applications are still being accepted, Sarasota County needs the community’s help to spread the word about ERAP, encouraging those who may be eligible to visit our website at http://www.scgov.net/RENT.

Along with calling 861-RENT or visiting scgov.net/RENT, a person may seek help from ERAP Ambassadors, who continue to be available in libraries and community spaces across Sarasota County, providing in-person assistance to renters and landlords. These ambassador locations have logged more than 5,000 interactions with applicants and have become a lively hub for residents to not only receive assistance with ERAP, but also to connect to other vital resources.

The City of Sarasota and the City of North Port contributed staff to assist at several of our Ambassador locations.

We’ve done amazing work together so far. Let’s keep this effort going, and help our families, friends, and neighbors remember they are not alone.

To learn more about the program, submit an application, or access promotional materials, visit our website at http://www.scgov.net/RENT or email mailto:erap@sarasotacountycares.net.

Laurel Varnell is manager of the ERAP Program provided by Sarasota County Government.

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