California to use COVID federal funds for rent bailout

California is paying off residents’ past due rent during the COVID-19 pandemic as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the news of the federal funds allocation.

Newsom’s senior counselor on housing and homelessness, Jason Elliott, confirmed that $5.2 billion in funds from Congressionally-approved aid packages will be used as only $32 million out of $490 million in requests for rental assistance have been paid.

“We should do our best to get back to the starting point where we were in December of 2019. Anything other than that is taking advantage of a crisis,” said Keith Becker, a property manager in Sonoma County. He revealed that 14 tenants have not paid $100,000 worth of rent.

Federal eviction protections also are set to expire on June 30. California had passed its own protections that applied to more people than the federal protections.
“It’s challenging to set up a new, big program overnight,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, a Democrat from San Francisco and chair of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee. “It has been challenging to educate millions of struggling tenants and landlords on what the law is.”

Landlords point to the state’s rapid economic recovery as a reason not to extend the eviction moratorium much longer.

“The stock market may be fine, we may be technically reopened, but people in low-wage jobs — which are disproportionately people of color — are not back yet,” said Madeline Howard, senior attorney for the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

Some housing advocates are asking the state to keep the eviction ban in place until the unemployment rate among low-wage workers has dropped to pre-pandemic levels.

The California Department Housing and Community Development report doesn’t include the 12 cities and 10 counties that run their own rental assistance programs.

Gavin Newsom photo/Facebook

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