Low-income tenants fearful of post-pandemic evictions and hoping for more rent relief are getting good news, as are the landlords who have been going without income since eviction moratoriums began nearly one year ago. A total of $29 million earmarked for rent and utility relief is on its way to Monterey County by mid-March from federal and state coffers.
First, county officials were informed that about $13 million in federal funds were coming from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, passed by Congress in December. (The Treasury Department is distributing $25 billion for rental and utility assistance to state and local governments nationwide.)
Then county officials found out an additional $16 million was coming from the state, thanks to the moratorium extension passed by the Legislature on Jan. 28, which also created a State Rental Assistance Program.
Since United Way Monterey County had already distributed $1.25 million in CARES Act funds on behalf of the county last fall, the nonprofit was tapped again. “The model we developed worked quite well,” CEO Katy Castagna says. “We just need to scale it up.” United Way sent out a request for proposals to nonprofits and cities that are willing to accept funds and disburse them directly. The RFP deadline is March 1, with a goal of opening the program to the public by March 15.
One of the cities hoping to be chosen is Monterey, where 66 percent of households are renters, and 35 percent are low – to moderate-income. On Feb. 11 the city announced it had depleted its Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds, disbursing $962,000 since August to aid 162 households. It’s asking for $1 million from United Way.
There are requirements in order to qualify for the funds, which will cover up to 12 months of back rent. It’s only open to low-income renters, which in Monterey County means earning up to $77,500 for a family of four. (Castagna says state officials want the emphasis to be on very low to extremely low-income households – $48,450 or less for a family of four.) In addition, landlords must be willing to accept only 80 percent of back rent due.
“This is a huge opportunity for us to carry the community through the pandemic, not only by preventing evictions but by having people come out the other end without a huge debt load they’ll never shake,” Castagna says. The goal is to keep renters whole after the eviction moratorium is lifted, to “prevent a wave of homelessness.”