Funds Galore

A view of PG&E SmartMeters installed on the Thorndike Apartments in Salinas, Mon., May 3, 2021.

Just a few weeks after Monterey County’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program started accepting applications from people who have struggled to pay their rent and utilities during the pandemic, more than 260 people have received aid and at least $554,000 in funds have been distributed. It could be closer to $1 million, says Josh Madfis, vice president of community investment at United Way Monterey County, due to a reporting backlog.

ERAP has $28 million available from state and federal relief funding for people who have faced income loss due to Covid. ERAP funds could cover up to a year of rent and utilities for those who qualify; the average payment is about $6,000.

The program will be active until the end of the year, and Madfis says he’s confident the $28 million will last. “I’m concerned we might not spend it all,” he adds.

United Way has received 2,484 ERAP applications so far. For rent, the landlord has to drop owed rent by 20 percent, meaning if a tenant owes $1,000, the landlord agrees to accept $800 from ERAP. If they refuse, they receive 25 percent of what’s owed.

For utilities – water, gas, electricity and internet – the full amount owed is paid. In both cases, funds are paid directly to the landlord or utility provider. “There is no limit to the amount they can be reimbursed,” Madfis says.

To be eligible, people have to be residents of Monterey County; earn no more than 80 percent of median household income ($81,600 for a family of four); and prove they are facing financial hardship or housing instability due to Covid-19. Immigration status is not a factor.

United Way also refers applicants to other programs, such as child care, food assistance and financial coaching. “Our goal is to help people get immediate needs addressed, then also longer-term needs to help them with economic mobility as well,” Madfis says.

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