BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — Many people still need help paying their rent in Palm Beach County.
However, Palm Beach County’s emergency rental and assistance online application is on hold for the next three weeks.
The department said it is so overwhelmed with applications it needed to have the entire staff process applications to avoid a backlog.
Michael Chermoff, 64, is among those who need help paying his rent.
When he clicked the online application for Palm Beach County’s rental assistance program, he saw an announcement that the application portal for applications was set to close Friday, July 15 at 5 p.m. and would not reopen until Aug. 2 at 10 a.m.
His shirt design business has struggled during the pandemic and supply chain shortage.
And now, when he needs help, applications for the county’s rental assistance program are on hold.
“Shocking,” is how Chernoff described it. “And kind of the end of assistance, even though COVID is still going on through other variants.”
“It’s just heartbreaking,” adds Boynton Beach real estate agent Jackie Sisler, who tries to find affordable rents for low and medium-income families.
Sisler said the county should have been better prepared to handle rental assistance applications.
“There should have been more hirings and training, work from home,” Sisler said.
“We’ve had a large influx of applications over the past couple of weeks in particular,” Palm Beach County Community Services Director James Green said.
Green dealt with the same manpower shortage last spring, causing the portal to shut down for three weeks.
The portal is shut down again, despite Green’s efforts to bring more staffers to the department.
“We’re growing the number of programs and services that are available to our residents, but we’re not growing the number of staff,” said Green, who says there are jobs available in the Community Services Department. “We do currently have positions that are posted.”
But people like Chernoff said it’s hard to wait for help with rent when he is paying wallet-busting rents right now.
“I moved here from New York and it was reasonable to live down here,” Chernoff said. “And now, you might as well live in Manhattan on Fifth Avenue.”
Green says several area charities are ready to step in and help during the next two-plus weeks.
He also recommends people who want to apply for rental assistance sign up for an online emergency rental assistance event scheduled to be held July 19.
The event will walk people through the application steps so it will become easier when the portal reopens.