Last Call

Many landlords and real estate companies have been cooperative in working with renters to apply for rental assistance, say those involved in distributing funds.

There were no more reprieves in Sacramento for California’s Covid-19 eviction moratorium earlier this month, after legislators extended it twice in January and June. With the unemployment rate at 7.5 percent in August – down from 12.3 percent the year before – and landlord groups lobbying for an end to rent protections, the collective will wasn’t there to extend the moratorium beyond Sept. 30, despite an estimated 724,000 California households behind on their rent, for a total of $2.4 billion, according to the National Equity Atlas.

With the predicted “evictions cliff” now here, it appears those behind on rent will not drop off all at once thanks to stopgaps included in the state’s moratorium law. Once someone has been notified they are being evicted for lack of payment, they have up to 15 days to apply for rental assistance through the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program. They can use their application in court as evidence. The protection lasts through the end of March 2022.

Over 5,000 Monterey County residents have applied for either the ERAP or federal utility assistance, or both, since March, when the county was awarded $28 million by the state. Contractor United Way is disbursing the money, partnering with 14 smaller nonprofits and municipalities to assist renters and landlords in applying. (Renters must continue to pay some portion of rent.)

Around 3,000 households have received approximately $12 million as of late September, according to Kelly DeWolfe, United Way’s impact manager for affordable housing. That leaves another 2,000 waiting for funds. “If you have applied and haven’t received assistance we will get to you,” says DeWolfe. The programs continue until all $28 million is distributed.

One of the partners, Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action, or COPA, has helped over 400 people get connected to aid. One COPA member church, San Pablo Episcopal Church in Seaside, has helped over 100 people, according to Rev. Martin Juarez. Many who are being helped are Latino hospitality and agricultural workers who lost jobs or depleted their savings trying to keep up with rent.

Evictions did not stop throughout the pandemic: There have been 218 eviction cases filed so far in 2021, according to a Monterey County Superior Court spokesperson. Evictions can take place for reasons other than nonpayment and some tenants choose to leave. There has been an uptick in cases filed by renters who say their landlords are harassing them, says Housing Counselor Emily Garnica of nonprofit ECHO Housing. Conversely, ECHO has heard from landlords who say their renters are using the moratorium as an excuse not to pay.

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