More than $4.29 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) funds will be given over to an emergency rental assistance program for tenant/landlord counseling and related legal services and costs, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday.
The supervisors allocated $3.2 million from a federal CARES grant to address COVID-19-related issues to go directly to monetary relief for rent and/or utility payments, and evaluating tenant applications; $600,000 for tenant/landlord counseling and related legal services; and about $493,000 for overall program administration.
The money will come in the form of CARES/Community Development Block Grant funding.
Concord-based Shelter Inc. will provide rental assistance payments directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant households whose applications are accepted, and Hayward-based ECHO Housing would provide tenant/landlord counseling and related legal services to income-eligible tenant households impacted by COVID-19.
Shelter Inc. had already started providing such rental assistance services in Antioch, Pittsburg, Concord or Walnut Creek.
On Sept. 22, the supervisors asked county staff for options and numbers for how to best provide for financial assistance and legal aid for Contra Costa residents who either are fighting to stay in their homes or who feel they have to take legal action against landlords.
Supervisor Federal Glover said the staff’s proposed response is a good one, but asked that the $40,000 planned for public outreach to the neediest communities likely isn’t enough.
Though Supervisors Candace Andersen and Diane Burgis said they expect this money will go quickly, Glover and Supervisor John Gioia said it sometimes takes more effort and money to reach communities like Bay Point, Richmond and Rodeo that likely have the greatest need. Community groups beyond Shelter Inc. may have to work to get the message out in specific areas and neighborhoods.
Rent payments approved by Shelter Inc. would go directly to the applicants’ landlords.
Callers in to Tuesday’s meeting praised the supervisors both for the rental assistance program and for their overall efforts in helping county residents stay in their homes.
“Obviously, families are struggling to make ends meet, and some of my students have found themselves having to take some economic responsibility to make families’ ends meet,” said Luis Chacon, a teacher in the West Contra Costa Unified School District.
In a related action, the supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to extend a temporary prohibition of evictions of small businesses in the county resulting from COVID-19-related closures or slowdowns until Jan. 31.
On Sept. 29, the supervisors unanimously approved adding commercial renter protection to a previous ordinance that already provided some protection for residential renters who have been impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic and can prove it. The provisions of that Sept. 29 ordinance were set to lapse on Nov. 30. An accompanying grace period would expire March 31, 2021.
These residential eviction protections last through Jan. 31, and on Tuesday the small-business protections were extended to lapse on the same date.