California’s COVID-19 Rent Relief program has seen more and more applications since the end of June, when Gov. Gavin Newsom extended eviction protections and allowed for up to 100 percent reimbursement of unpaid rent.
The state Department of Housing and Community Development also launched a new data dashboard this week showing the progress of its rent relief program, with options to filter by county or city.
Housing officials announced the dashboard and discussed progress of the program during a news briefing on Wednesday.
The department has to date paid over $241 million in rent relief to tenants and landlords impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is more than triple the amount that had been paid just over a month ago.
Lourdes Castro Ramirez, secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, said that the department is working on doing landlord and tenant outreach to encourage people to apply.
“When it comes to California as renters, we still have much more to do,” Ramirez said. “The COVID-19 pandemic, as we know, is far from over. And it is critical to keep people stably housed to prevent the rapid transmission of COVID-19 and to protect the public health.”
Since the program launched in mid-March, it has served just over 20,000 households, providing on average about $12,000 to each household.
Gustavo Velasquez, director of the Department of Housing and Community Development, said that most of the assistance has been given in the last five weeks.
At the end of June, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 832 into law. This extended eviction protections to Sep. 30 and allowed tenants and landlords to be reimbursed up to 100 percent of their unpaid rent or utility bills.
Plus, the state has improved translation services and made the application shorter and simpler in response to feedback from applicants and community organizations that were helping people apply.
The program receives on average almost 7,500 applications a week now, compared to about 4,500 per week before June 28, Velasquez said.
“That gives us great optimism that we will be able to help all the people that need this help,” Velasquez said.
When asked about the average time it takes for a household to receive money after applying, Housing and Community Development specialist Jessica Hayes said it varies depending on the eviction risk.
“Households who have the highest risk of eviction do get prioritized for payment. We’re also prioritizing our oldest applications and we’re making payments on those,” Hayes said, adding that over 100 staff members are working to speed up the application process.
Moreover, Hayes said that landlord participation speeds up the payment process. If landlords do not participate, a household can still get paid; it might just take longer.
Hayes also said that it helps to have good contact information and for applicants to look out for communications from the housing department.
Exploring application data
The interactive dashboard, available at https://housing.ca.gov/covid_rr/dashboard.html#, allows users to see the program’s overall progress such as the number of applications received, funds requested and total funds paid.
People can also view application information for each participating county and city, plus demographic information like breakdowns by race, ethnicity, age group, gender and income level.
However, Hayes noted that there might be partial data for the counties or cities that have a local program to administer their own rent relief funds. These areas, shaded in gray on the dashboard map, report information directly to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Hayes also noted that demographic data might be missing for some places. Those places have so few applications that the data cannot be shared to protect applicants’ privacy.
Overall, the dashboard shows that while 14 percent of applicant households did not report their race, 38 percent of applicants identified as white, 18 percent as multi-racial and 18 percent as Black. In terms of ethnicity, 40 percent identified as Hispanic or Latino.
Of the 20,066 households served by the program, most were from very or extremely low income households.
In the Bay Area, the highest number of applications came from Contra Costa County, which had over 7,000 applications. San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo and Alameda counties had several thousand applications each. Napa and Solano counties had fewer than 400 applications each while Marin and Sonoma counties did not participate in the state’s program.
Data on the dashboard will be updated weekly.
Eviction protections in California prevent a tenant from being evicted for nonpayment of rent if they can pay 25 percent of their rent owed to their landlord by Sept. 30. Beyond that date, eligible tenants who receive eviction notices will have 15 business days to apply for rent relief and cannot be evicted until the housing department makes a decision on their application.
This added protection is in place until the end of next March, giving eligible tenants an additional six months of protection.
Tenants and landlords can apply for rent relief online at https://housing.ca.gov/covid_rr/index.html or by calling (833) 430-2122.