A participant at a protest of evictions due to pandemic-related hardship. (Photo courtesy Anthony Crider/Flickr)

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to join a state program that makes $16.8 million available to county residents that cannot afford their rent and utility payments because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Residents making 80 percent or less of the county’s area median income, which was $82,234 for one household in 2019 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, are eligible for the renter relief program, which is expected to launch next month.

Eligible households must also include at least one person who qualifies for unemployment insurance or is facing pandemic-induced financial hardship.

The program will pay up to 80 percent of back rent accrued between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, to participating landlords. Renters whose landlords do not participate in the program are still eligible to have up to 25 percent of their back rent subsidized.

Once the program launches, residents can apply at the state’s housingiskey.com website.