For Rent sign

In March 2020, as the economy shut down, government agencies passed eviction moratoriums. The idea was that a sudden surge in evictions, as people were ordered to shelter in place, would add to the public health crisis.

In California, with a statewide eviction moratorium about to expire, lawmakers introduced Assembly Bill 832 to extend the end date to Sept. 30, and bolster rent relief payments to landlords to 100 percent. (Those who applied previously, under an 80-percent formula, will receive the additional 20 percent.)

“This is an opportunity to make people as whole as possible,” says Katy Castagna, CEO of United Way Monterey County, which was contracted by the county Board of Supervisors to handle the rent relief program.

With the original deadline looming, there was a surge, with roughly 700 applications filed last week, more than double the usual. United Way and partner agencies have received 3,947 applications as of June 29.

They were already working through a backlog. Out of $26 million in federal and state funds to distribute for rent relief, just $2.3 million has been paid; once applications in the pipeline are processed, Castagna estimates they’ll be at about $9 million.

“There’s a very practical capacity problem, as far as having organizations that can do the vetting and check-writing, and verify it’s going to the right person,” Castagna says. United Way is encouraging more low-income tenants to apply – immigration status is irrelevant, and applicants don’t need a formal lease – by calling 211 or visiting mcrenthelp.com.

Organizers with the group COPA (Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action) want to see the process work better. “It’s like the application was written for middle-class people with computers and good connectivity,” says organizer John Heyl. “We’re hoping agencies develop more capacity for assisting individuals who could be eligible for these funds to get through all the steps.”

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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