Hancock Whitney helps Tampa Bay residents with housing, hunger challenges as pandemic batters the economy

Tim Coop, October 2, 2020

Florida’s workforce has the third slowest recovery rate as the nation deals with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, with only Georgia and Kansas faring more poorly, according to personal finance website WalletHub’s recently released study. However, Hancock Whitney has stepped up to lead COVID relief and support for communities in need around the state.

The WalletHub report showed that the number of Florida unemployment claims in August was more than six times higher than in August 2019. Clearly, COVID-19 has changed everything, and there has never been a more important time for us to help organizations providing services for people who need assistance now.

At Hancock Whitney, we identified two top areas of need in the Tampa Bay region during the coronavirus crisis - housing and hunger. We also found nonprofits that are making a significant, immediate impact. The result: Hancock Whitney has donated nearly $250,000 so far this year to Tampa Bay nonprofits helping with residents’ housing and hunger challenges.

Keeping Tampa Bay residents in their homes and apartments with Bay Area Legal Services

Hancock Whitney donated $50,000 to Bay Area Legal Services to help Tampa Bay renters facing economic hardships and housing crises caused by the pandemic. The bank’s donations will help families in two ways: Legal assistance and advice for those facing evictions, and payments to landlords for tenants who are behind in their rents.

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Hancock Whitney provided $50,000 to Bay Area Legal Services to help the Tampa Bay community with housing assistance and legal aid toward evictions. 

The Statewide Evictions Moratoriums, which have allowed renters struggling financially to stay in their homes, will eventually end, creating a sharp increase in homelessness, according to Lisa Brody, Managing Attorney at the St. Petersburg office of Bay Area Legal Services. An eviction action remains part of someone’s official court record forever, creating a long-lasting barrier to getting housing in the future.

Additionally, Tampa Bay nonprofit Metropolitan Ministries received $50,000 to provide 100 families in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties with $500 rent assistance payments paid directly to landlords on the renters’ behalf. The nonprofit has already paid more than $800,000 to landlords and utility companies to prevent homelessness during the coronavirus-driven housing crisis, according to Tim Marks, CEO and President of Metropolitan Ministries.

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Moreover, Turning Points, a nonprofit that addresses homelessness in Bradenton, received $10,000 from Hancock Whitney to help those in need with rent and utility assistance.

Feeding the growing number of hungry families in Tampa Bay

Since the coronavirus crisis was declared a national emergency on March 13, more than 1.5 million U.S. households have slid into “food insecurity,” which simply means not having enough to eat. Many families living paycheck-to-paycheck before COVID-19 were the first to fall into food insecurity after the primary wage earners lost their jobs.

Hancock Whitney has donated $110,000 to five Tampa Bay organizations serving families facing food insecurity: St. Petersburg Free Clinic, Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee, and All Faiths Food Bank of Sarasota, kidsPack of Lakeland, along with an additional donation to Metropolitan Ministries.

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The Tampa Bay donations are part of Hancock Whitney’s broader $2.5 million community relief investment announced in April to help people in some of the Gulf South’s most vulnerable neighborhoods during the COVID-19 pandemic.