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Behind On Bills Because Of Coronavirus Job Loss? New Hillsborough Hotline Aims To Help

All Hillsborough residents can call the Rapid Response Assistance Call Center at (813) 274-3710 beginning on Monday, April 27, 2020.
Hillsborough County
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Hillsborough County opened up a new hotline on Monday for people who have lost their job or have reduced wages because of coronavirus, and need help paying for their housing and utilities.

The numbers for the Rapid Response Assistance Call Center is (813) 274-3710 or (813) 274-6710. It is open to callers from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The county opened a second number Monday morning due to high call volume. County officials are also asking people to be patient when calling.

Department of Social Services Director Audrey Ziegler said they set up the new call center after experiencing about twice the usual number of calls for help this month, as many businesses closed.

“The latter part of March, our phones were completely dead. I think people were focusing on their immediate needs, kind of figuring out how to get their kids oriented with the schoolwork and all of that stuff. But as of April 1, we have experienced more than double the call volume that we typically receive for crisis intervention services,” Ziegler said.

CORONAVIRUS:  Complete Coverage From WUSF And Health News Florida

“Basically, the eligibility criteria will be households that have been impacted by a loss of wage due to the COVID-19 business closures, or even reduced hours. And they're behind on some of their living obligations -- basic needs such as rent, mortgage, utilities.”

It has a unique line – staffed by librarians who are out of work due to coronavirus closures -- that is “specific to COVID-19 households that have been impacted by loss of wages,” she added.

Callers in Tampa, Plant City, Temple Terrace and unincorporated Hillsborough County who are eligible may be able to get help paying for two months of housing and one month of water and electric.

“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,” said a statement from Hillsborough County.

It is being funded with $15 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Overall, Hillsborough County has secured $256 million in funding from the CARES Act.

Hillsborough County has also issued a survey to help connect residents with services they may need.

“Its goal is to reach residents who may not be taking advantage of county government resources and aren’t accessing the COVID-19 assistance that the County provides. The county wants to reach out to residents to determine the communication barriers and learn about their needs in order to better serve them,” said a statement.

The survey is in English and Spanish at . Residents can also take the survey by texting StaySafe to 73224 for English or texting StaySafeEspanol to 73224 for Spanish.

Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Kerry Sheridan is a reporter and co-host of All Things Considered at WUSF Public Media.