Florida tenants await help from Our Florida

Florida tenants await help from Our Florida

TAMPA, Fla. — An ABC Action News I-Team investigation found that more local tenants face eviction while waiting for help after Florida received $870 million intended to rescue pandemic impacted renters. Now a whistleblower sheds light on why the program failed so many times in the past.

Shawn Lindsay applied for help from the Our Florida rental assistance program last fall after a heart attack and heart surgery left him unable to work. In November, the landlord delivered an eviction notice.

“I would call for days and not get any answers,” Lindsay told the I-Team in December.

The Pasco County man waited months for his approved Our Florida application to be processed. The Lindsay family is one of more than 30 renters who’ve reached out to ABC Action News about delays in receiving rental assistance.

The Department of Children and Families received $870 million last summer for the Our Florida program, intended to help struggling tenants with rent and utilities. In August, an I-Team investigation revealed the program had distributed just 3% of allocated funds.

Shamika Jenkins and her teenage daughter were living in their SUV last fall when interviewed by ABC Action News. The Sarasota resident said they were evicted two-and-a-half months after applying for rental assistance from Our Florida.

“Every single call was, they’ve been waiting for months, they haven’t heard anything or they haven’t received their checks,” a former call-center worker for the Our Florida program said.

Shoshana, who asked that we only use her first name, shared screenshots from dozens of online conversations she had with renters desperate for answers. She said there were too few caseworkers to review and approve applications.


“In October, I was looking at applications that had not moved since June,” Shoshana said. She said she quit the job out of frustration.

In the six months since the I-Team began investigating Our Florida, the agency reports it has made progress processing applications. In a February press release, DCF stated that the program had distributed more than $858 million in funding to 164,000 households. It also announced receiving an additional $740 million from the Federal government to help struggling tenants.

But it was only after the I-Team started asking questions that the state mailed Shawn Linsday the money to pay three months of back rent, keeping him from being evicted.

Disabled retiree Joann Blinn also made a call for action in December after waiting six months for Assistance from Our Florida.

“If I don’t get this rent paid, I am sleeping in my car,” Blinn said.

ABC Action News contacted Our Florida regarding Blinn, and she received three months of back rent, allowing her to remain in her rented mobile home.

DCF refused to answer our questions on camera or provide vendor contracts. State agencies, under Florida’s public record law, are required to allow inspection of contracts. The state did, however, confirm that they replaced the call-center vendor that Shoshana worked for over performance issues.

In the press release, DCF stated that the “Our Florida vendor has hired even more staff and now has a team of more than 700 processing applications, managing cases, answering calls….”

Joseph Hubbard

Joseph Hubbard is a seasoned journalist passionate about uncovering stories and reporting on events that shape our world. With a strong background in journalism, he has dedicated his career to providing accurate, unbiased, and insightful news coverage to the public.

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