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Palm Beach County rental assistance portal closes amid surge in demand

Contact 5 asks community services director why portal, closed since May 15, won't reopen until June 7
Posted at 1:04 PM, Jun 01, 2021

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In a flash, Everett Hamilton's multimedia business was gone -- and so was his livelihood -- thanks to the pandemic.

"I probably went from doing maybe 12-15 things a month to absolutely zero," he said. "I knew that the implications of COVID were tremendous."

Facing the threat of eviction, Hamilton said, he received rental and utility assistance from Palm Beach County and guidance from the Legal Aid Society.

"They jumped in and did an amazing job in helping me navigate what I need to do," he said.

Tequisha Myles, an attorney at Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, works with neighbors facing housing issues and helps them apply for rental assistance through the county.

"We are still seeing high demand for tenants who are facing eviction," she explained. "We've seen as high as $26,000 in past due rent for a family."

1,136 Palm Beach County Open Residential Eviction Cases

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's eviction moratorium remains in place for now.

Numbers from the Palm Beach County clerk's office show 1,136 open residential eviction cases for a variety of reasons.

"It says we have a big problem if we don't continue to come up with solutions," Myles said.

Despite demand, the county's rental and utility assistance portal has been closed since May 15 and won't reopen until June 7.

Michael Buczyner speaks with James Green, director of Palm Beach County Community Services Department, about closing rental assistance portal
Contact 5 investigator Michael Buczyner speaks with James Green, director of the Palm Beach County Community Services Department, about closing the rental assistance portal.

Contact 5 asked James Green, director of the Palm Beach County Community Services Department, why the portal is closed.

"The portal closing allows us to calibrate the system and to make tweaks and enhancements and allows us to process the applications that have come in, in a way that's efficient," Green said.

The county's website said the portal is closed due to the high volume of applications.

Contact 5 asked Green why not leave it open because of the demand.

"Well, again, it allows us -- we have limited staff and limited capacity -- and so closing the portal temporarily allows us to continue to work with those individuals who applied," he said.

James Green, director of Palm Beach County Community Services Department, explains closing rental assistance portal
James Green, director of the Palm Beach County Community Services Department, says closing the rental assistance portal "allows us to calibrate the system and to make tweaks and enhancements and allows us to process the applications that have come in."

Green told Contact 5 that, when open, the portal received 200 to 300 applications per day. When asked about staffing levels to help process the applications, Green said he had a previously planned meeting with county administration after Contact 5's interview.

Hamilton is beyond grateful for the help he received from the county as his business begins to come back into focus.

"The phone is starting to ring again," he said. "It's not back to where it was before the pandemic, but I am getting some calls. So it takes perseverance to win at this. You can never give up."

If you need assistance while the portal is closed, Palm Beach County has a mobile outreach unit for eligible individuals impacted by COVID-19.

Ten library locations can also help you in creating an application for assistance.

For assistance, call 561-355-4792 or visit rentalassistancepbc.org.

The Florida Department of Children and Families also recently launched an emergency assistance program at ourflorida.com.

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