The agency responsible for distributing emergency aid in Sacramento has so far paid out around US $ 11.5 million in aid funds, but still has tens of millions of US dollars for low-income tenants who have been affected by COVID-19 and who rent them Have fallen behind.
La Shelle Dozier, executive director of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA), said her agency had received about 13,000 applications for the Sacramento Emergency Rental Assistance program. But even if all were approved, SHRA would still have about half of its $ 99.8 million in support left.
SHRA manages rental assistance funds for the city and county of Sacramento.
“It is very important that we take the floor and that people understand that these funds are available,” Dozier told CapRadio on Thursday, referring to SHRA’s rent relief money. “Help is there to help them due to lost income due to COVID.”
The SHRA application is available online at shra.org/sera. Applicants can send an email [email protected] if you have any questions or by phone at 916-449-1266.
The agency also produced leaflets describing the rental assistance program in Spanish, Hmong, Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese.
Who is Eligible?
Sacramento County renters should apply if they are unemployed, had a reduced household income or incurred significant expenses, or have had financial difficulties due to the pandemic. Applicants must demonstrate the risk of housing or housing instability, according to the agency, which determines the total amount of support based on documented needs of a household.
Under the Sacramento Program, from last April through March of last year, landlords receive 80% of a renter’s rent back if both parties request and are approved for assistance. The landlord is then obliged to give away the remaining unpaid rent.
If a landlord does not participate, tenants who apply for the funds will be offered 25% of their debt. This is the amount renters will have to pay to maintain evacuation protection during the pandemic. In addition, landlords can apply on behalf of their tenants.
The aid can apply to both overdue rents and utility bills.
SHRA ran a rental assistance program last fall. Tenants who applied last year can also apply for this second phase of the program, or SERA2 as the agency calls it. The second phase opened at the end of February. Duplicate applications will not be accepted.
The agency plans to accept applications while funds are still available. The end of the program is not subject to separate evacuation protection or the end of the state eviction moratorium on June 30th.
Dozier said SHRA is determined to help tenants with their applications. She added that the agency reaches residents in zip codes disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and works with non-English speaking groups across the county.
“We have a team of bilingual staff available by phone, email and by appointment to assist with completing the application and uploading the required documents,” she added.
Dozier added that SHRA expects to receive an additional $ 55 million in rental support funds through the COVID-19 Relief Act passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden earlier this year. She said applications for rental support will be accepted until the agency’s funds are used up.
Though SHRA has a lot of money left, the agency has distributed more of the funds than the government’s rent subsidy program, which housing advocates criticized this week for its slow distribution.
“We are at a loss”
The California eviction moratorium expires on June 30th. Thousands of tenants fear they will be removed from their homes. Housing advocates and some lawmakers are pushing for the ban to be extended, citing the time it takes to distribute rental subsidies and the obstacles they face in applying it.
A report by a coalition of tenants’ representatives found that California housing officials had distributed less than 5% of the money provided by the state and requested by tenants, or just $ 20 million of the $ 473 million requested so far. The report, “Preventing an Eviction Epidemic – Providing Effective Covid-19 Rental Assistance for Emergencies in California,” also found that tenants were often abandoning applications because of their length and complexity, and language and technology barriers.
Even if tenants get everything right when applying, they can still be stuck, according to tenants and lawyers who spoke at a press conference this week.
After Pasadena renter Jaylynn Bailey lost her job during the pandemic, she applied for rental assistance from Los Angeles County. She said she was told it was approved, but the release of funds still depends on the participating landlord.
“We’re at a loss,” said Bailey. “We don’t know where we are in the system. We don’t know if our landlord completely turned down the program. There was just no communication. ”
Debra Carlton, a spokeswoman for the California Apartment Association, dismissed the idea that the landlords her organization represents stand in the way.
“Landlords are desperate for dollars,” she said. “Some of them haven’t been paid for over a year.”
Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the state agency for the economy, consumer services and housing, said the initial distribution of state rent subsidies was slow because the state wanted to prevent fraud and duplication of benefits.
“We’re ramping things up,” said Heimerich. “So far, $ 20 million has been paid. We have another $ 122.6 million pending approval. ”
Governor Gavin Newsom recently proposed repaying 100% of the rent back owed by low-income tenants. Tenant groups say this could encourage more landlords to participate.
The governor and lawmaker must negotiate any change to the rent relief program.
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