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LARGO — The city of Largo has added another safety net for residents suffering financial hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

City commissioners voted unanimously May 19 to establish the Resident Assistance Program, which will provide Largo households with as much as $4,000 to pay for housing and utility expenses.

According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity's May 22 report, 63,981 people were unemployed in Pinellas, compared with 20,577 in March and 13,757 in April 2019.

Pinellas County and the Juvenile Welfare Board have provided assistance programs for those in need, but it’s likely many didn’t qualify or are still in need of aid.

That is where this program will kick in, said Arrow Woodard, housing grant specialist with the city of Largo.

“Our program was designed to avoid duplication of benefits by assisting households that are either deemed ineligible by that program (the Pinellas CARES Act Individual Assistance Program) or if they have utilized the maximum amount under that county program but they are still unable to return to work or they’ve still had extended financial hardship due to COVID-19,” she said. “And so we would be able to provide that additional rent and mortgage assistance up to $4,000.”

Woodward said she hopes the program, which will be funded through state housing funds, will be operational by early June. Payments will be made directly to landlords, mortgage companies and/or utility companies as needed.

Eligibility is limited to low-income households of individuals or families with at least one applicant who is 18 and older and resides within the city limits. Applicants must provide documentation of residency, identification, income, assets and need. Eligible applicants must also be able to document that they were unable to receive funding through other COVID-19 assistance programs.

A link for an application will be provided on largo.com, and applications will also be accepted by calling the city’s Housing Division at 727-586-7489, ext. 7314.

“Thank you for putting this program together,” Mayor Woody Brown told Woodard. “I think it’s going to help a lot of people in Largo.”