UF could soon pay students' rent for them

The money to fund this initiative will be transferred from the Student Government reserve account.

If the bill is passed, students will be given the opportunity to fill out an application for rent relief aid.

The University of Florida Student Government Senate is in the process of passing a $500,000 rent relief bill.

The University of Florida Student Government is working on passing a half-million-dollar rent relief bill that would help students living in off-campus housing pay for their rent during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The first phase of the reserve transfer bill was approved May 1 by the Executive Committee consisting of the president, vice president, and treasurer.

UF student government Budget and Appropriations Committee chairwoman Samantha Girschick presented the bill Tuesday to the Senate. The first reading of the bill was then approved by unanimous consent from all Senators. Student Government President Trevor Pope thanked the Senate for reaching a bipartisan agreement on the first reading of the rent reserve transfer bill.

“This is something that is near and dear to my heart. We spent a lot of time on it over the last few weeks now. So to see it approved unanimously and have bipartisan support is something that I think will do a lot of good for the student body” Pope said.  

[RELATED:  UF students receive email encouraging them NOT to pay rent]

During the meeting, UF student Mark Merwizter spoke in support of rent relief and expressed his disappointment with how local landlords have been responding to the students’ pleas for rent relief.

“These landlords have been making students pay for empty units in the middle of a global health pandemic. They have no empathy for the situation that many of us are in. Landlords have continued to profit off of students for decades and the one time we are pleading for help, they are sucking our blood. There is absolutely no denying that the $500,000 up tonight is going to absolutely help.” 

The bill still needs to pass a second reading, which will occur during the next UF Senate meeting on May 19 via Zoom. 

Should the bill officially pass, UF students will be given the opportunity to fill out an application form for help in paying their rent. The maximum amount that a student can receive from the bill is $1,000. Then, a task force will be appointed by the vice president of student affairs, D’Andra Mull and Department of Off-Campus Life Nora Kilroy to review the applications. 

“They will be appointing six to eight committee members who will then read the applications. It will be a double-blind process where the reviewers will not know who the applicants are and then they will use basically an objective test in determining which students are the most in need,” Pope explained during the meeting. 

Pope hopes this bill will help relieve some of the stress that comes with paying rent during a crisis such as this one.

“Our administration finds it absolutely, 100 percent integral to the future success of our students that they do not breach their lease agreement. And the reason for that is if students do, it’ll basically ensure that they are accruing debt, it’ll negatively affect their credit score, it’ll affect their job application status potentially in the future” Pope told Campus Reform.

Rent relief has been a big point of discussion on the University of Florida’s campus. In April, an email was sent to all students encouraging them to participate in rent strikes in Gainesville. However, Pope told Campus Reform that he was already working on the bill before the email was sent out and he did not have any prior knowledge that the email would be sent out. 

“I was working on this bill probably about two to three weeks before that email. When I received that email, it almost reinsured that I was working towards a need. I was glad that I was able to be proactive as opposed to reactive because we already had a framework of what type of rent relief we wanted to provide to students” Pope told Campus Reform

According to Pope, he has yet to hear from anybody expressing that the funding should not be spent toward rent relief in this specific situation.

“We are excited to create basically a subsidy on certain students’ rent as a way to ensure that they’re not taking on debt. I think it will be very beneficial and I hope it has an amazing impact on some of our students and I am excited to hear some of the student testimonies” Pope told Campus Reform.

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