Beginning Monday, the county will begin accepting applications for $100 million in federal CARES Act funding to county renters who need it most.
As a state panel weighed whether to end a ban on statewide evictions amid the pandemic, Los Angeles County officials on Wednesday, Aug. 12, said a new $100 million program designed to offer rent relief for the most vulnerable of tenants was vital, but will only scratch the surface of the huge numbers of people who need it.
Beginning Monday, the county will begin allocating $100 million in federal CARES Act funding to county renters. Applications for the relief funding will open on Aug. 17, 2020. You can submit at 211la.org/lacounty/rentrelief, or by dialing 2-1-1, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
From Aug. 17 to Aug. 31, tenants on the cusp of eviction can apply for the COVID-19 Rent Relief Program, run by the Los Angeles County Development Authority. The city of L.A. is not part of the county’s program, because it got a seperate allotment of funding.
Ultimately, up to 9,000 households could be helped by the new program, which officials said will help landlords, too.
But even then, it will be only a stopgap measure amid a pandemic with no end in sight, and threatening to force many more out of their homes, leaders warned on Wednesday.
“It’s a moment that’s testing our resolve and our resilience,” said L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who along with his four colleagues on the Board voted to allocated the money.
It’s a giant leap from the county’s $3 million relief fund established earlier on in the outbreak.
“This pandemic has taken an unimaginable toll and wreaked havoc on our economy,” Ridley-Thomas said. “So many people are struggling just to feed themselves and their families, and have no idea how to pay their rent.”
Indeed, by May, the pandemic had already forced nearly 600,000 Los Angeles County workers out of a job, according to a UCLA Luskin Institute study, which showed that 449,000 of those unemployed, and with no income, live in about 365,000 rental units.
More than 365,000 L.A. County households face eviction — a reality faced by millions across the state if the state’s Judicial Council votes this week to end its eviction moratorium on Sept. 1.
Several state leaders have warned that 4 million Californians could lose their homes if the moratorium ends — a prospect that had L.A. County leaders and housing advocates worried this week about adding to a growing homeless population in a region that already faces multiple crises: Housing, recession and COVID-19, among them.
One in six Southern California tenants failed to pay their June rent on time, a U.S. Census survey found. But so far they’ve been protected by local and state eviction bans.
The relief fund is open to all renters in Los Angeles County, regardless of immigration status, who qualify based on income and “have struggled to pay rent, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Half of the $100 million is targeted to zip codes where people are most vulnerable to eviction.
Vulnerable areas are spread across the county, but particular clusters include the Pomona area and El Monte, Paramount, Inglewood, Hawthorne and northern L.A. County.
> Those who are currently at 30% of the median income can receive up to $10,000.
> Those who are currently at 50% of the median income can receive up to $7,500.
For instance, a two-person household making 30% of the median is making about $27,000, said Emilio Salas, acting executive director of the LACDA. They would be “fast-tracked” based on income and zip codes. For geographic regions not at high risk for eviction, renters at 50% of the median income or below will be able to apply and will be assigned to a Service Planning Area based on their ZIP code, according to the county.
To determine who gets the money, officials will use a formula by the Federal Community Development Block Grant Program that takes into account population, poverty, and overcrowded housing. Then, a lottery of eligible applicants will be run at the end of the application process.
Applicants would also be assessed on:
> Loss of income due to workplace closure or reduced hours;
> Loss of income or increased childcare costs because daycare or schools are closed;
> Medical costs for a resident or a household member who is sick with COVID-19; and
> Loss of income due to government-ordered emergency measures after March 13, 2020.
Ultimately, the rent subsidy would be paid directly to the property owner, but only once the tenant has been qualified by providing documentation proving eligibility and only once the property owner has agreed to participate in the program.
Such funding is vital for people on the brink of losing a roof over their head.
Out of a job during the pandemic San Gabriel Valley resident Anja Carrillo was on the cusp of being evicted when she found the earlier, smaller relief fund. A single mother with a 7-year-old son, it offered peace of mind.
“I’ve been working all my life,” she said. “Being unemployed, it was not knowing how to proceed. Not knowing what the future holds. It gave me a lot of anxiety. It gave me a piece of mind. If you feel like you’re going to be homeless in a month, you really don’t know what to look forward any more.”
Many have already felt that sting. Just last week, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department resumed close to 1,000 eviction lockouts from pre-COVID, court-ordered evictions.
Property owners said Wednesday that the county’s renters relief fund was more digestible than the city of L.A.’s, which provided $103 million with a goal of helping 50,000 city households.
Daniel M. Yukelson, executive director of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, said his group “applauded” the county’s action — even though it will likely make only a small but needed dent in the effort to avert a crisis.
“They’re simpler and more enticing than the city of LA has put into place,” he said, adding that L.A. city’s rules ask owners to sign on for a longer moratorium freeze on evictions and a freeze on rents.
“The county of L.A. is much smarter than the city of L.A., and they want owners to embrace the program,” he said.
He hoped that similar programs would help stave off a foreclosure crisis for many smaller property owners, who he said depend on their rents for income and who have their own mortgages to pay.
Yukelson said that ultimately, help for tenants needs to come from government, rather than leaning on owners to forego their rents.
“This is where the assistance needs to come from to help rent-burdened tenants in California,” he said. “It needs to come from the government, not from private citizens. Rental owners should not be forced into a position of providing private welfare.”
The larger renters relief fund opening on Monday coincides with a major push in Sacramento to extend the moratorium ban, and major lobbying to get Congress to inject more emergency stimulus funding into the economy.
Los Angeles County’s moratorium has been extended to Sept. 30. The state Judicial Council order — now facing review — stopped courts throughout the state from processing eviction cases.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday that he hoped the Judicial Council, which oversees state courts — would extend the moratorium until Sept. 1 to give the state Legislature, in collaboration with the governor’s office, more time to come up with new legislation that would give renters and landlords relief. Underpinning that urgency was that the state Legislature recesses on Aug. 31.
And then there’s Congress, which has failed to find agreement on dueling emergency funding packages, putting at stake more federal money into housing assistance. With that failure, $600 federal unemployment checks have gone up in smoke.
As much as supervisors touted the new rental relief, they acknowledged how tenuous the situation is — given the huge demand for rental help.
“This is $100 million that will last two weeks,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn, who questioned whether the $100 million would even last for the two-week application period. “We are pretty sure that it will be gone in two weeks. There’s so much need out there. There’s so much suffering out there. We’re always hoping the federal government will come together and get a stimulus package out to us, because this won’t even begin to cover all the people who need it.”
(LA Daily News)