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Need for aid to prevent suffering continues in South Florida

MIAMI – Small business owners in South Florida continue to struggle through the coronavirus pandemic. For years, Zak Stern’s bread has had continuous demand from restaurants. His Zak the Baker pastries are well known. He has amassed a loyal clientele at his Wynwood location.

“We are tired; we are demoralized; we have no end in sight,” Stern said on Monday, adding “that is a little scary."

Stern thinks his business is going to make it, but not all business owners do. Some entrepreneurs are facing the threat of eviction at both their businesses and homes.

Attorney Lissie Salazar, of Legal Services of Greater-Miami, said without sufficient aid they are bracing for “a massive wave of evictions.” She said Gov. Ron DeSantis’ latest limited extension of mortgage foreclosure and eviction relief isn’t enough because it allows eviction cases to move forward in the courts. It expires Sept. 1st

“What we can see is by September 2nd we can see families put out of their homes ― out on the streets,” Salazar said.

On Monday, the city of Miami started to accept applications for its eviction prevention program. The deadline to receive $3,500 in aid is Aug. 14.

Soledad Cedro, a spokeswoman for the city of Miami, said there was a similar program at the beginning of the crisis, but it quickly ran out of funding. This program has about $300,000 and aims to help about 85 families.

“The amount of people who came asking for help was overwhelming,” Cedro said. “What we are going to start seeing is that basically a lot of people will be without a home.”

Business owners are not the only ones struggling to keep up with the rent. In July, Miami-Dade County announced commissioners allocated $10 million to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, or ERAP, to help families who are having problems paying their rent.

Miami-Dade also allocated $20 million in federal funding to a partnership with the United Way of Miami-Dade. Maria Alonso, the president and CEO of United Way of Miami-Dade, said 54% of households were already struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic.

“This $20 million in CARES Act funding from Miami-Dade County will enable us to provide emergency assistance and relief to hard-working families,” Alonso said.

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