Hillsborough County’s R3 Program Call Center opens Monday to help residents access relief funds

Hillsborough County is opening a special call center on Monday, April 27, to help residents get access to disaster recovery funds available to assist in paying utility bills, rent, and even mortgage payments.

Residents of Tampa, Plant City, Temple Terrace, and unincorporated Hillsborough County who have seen a reduction in or loss of wages resulting from layoff or lessening of hours due to COVID-19, are eligible to apply.

Hillsborough County secured $256 million in funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. An immediate $15 million was allocated to the Social Services Department to bolster their efforts and programs to serve all Hillsborough residents impacted by the devastating effects of COVID-19. The $15 million funding is the first to come through the Rapid Response Recovery (R3) Program Hillsborough County has put in place to assist its residents.

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The funds can be used to pay past-due utility bills and/or lease/mortgage payments in the name of the person applying for assistance. For instance, if the electric bill is in your spouse’s name, your spouse must be the one to apply for R3 assistance with Social Services.

Hillsborough residents can call the Rapid Response Assistance Call Center beginning on Monday. The call center will be open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, though as of Monday morning, callers reported the phone line was overwhelmed. The county later changed the phone number to 813-274-6710.

Annually, the allocations for Social Services’ direct-client funding distributed to eligible, low income, vulnerable residents located in the three municipalities and unincorporated county are:

• City of Plant City, 4 percent
• City of Tampa, 45 percent
• City of Temple Terrace, 2 percent; and
• Unincorporated Hillsborough County, 49 percent.

Hillsborough officials anticipate these percentages will be the same for distribution of the CARES Act funding.

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Hillsborough County typically invests about $8 million annually in direct client services that include the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Emergency Home Energy Assistance Program (EHEAP), Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), and Rental/Mortgage Assistance programs. These programs have been in place for Hillsborough County residents, regardless of jurisdiction, before COVID-19 and will remain in place.

Residents who have been affected by COVID-19 but would have qualified for Social Services assistance prior to the pandemic will be assisted through Social Services’ LIHEAP/EHEAP and Housing Assistance programs just as they always have.

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