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California’s COVID Rent Relief Program: Funding Crisis Sparks Uncertainty for Struggling Tenants

California’s COVID Rent Relief Program: Funding Crisis Sparks Uncertainty for Struggling Tenants

California’s COVID-era rent relief program, which was established in 2021 with a budget of $5.2 billion, is facing the risk of running out of funds. This could leave over 100,000 renters who are still awaiting assistance from the program out of luck. The program has been plagued with delays, criticism, and a lawsuit since its inception.

The first indication of the program’s financial troubles came in an email sent by a staffer from the state Housing and Community Development Department to lawyers representing anti-poverty groups. The email stated that as of July 31, 2023, there was only $128,940,473 in funding left for disbursement to applicants. The next round of payments would assist approximately 5,521 households, but any remaining funds would not be enough to support more than one additional payment.

Department spokesperson Pablo Espinoza did not dispute the contents of the email but maintained that the program still has cash available for now. However, he acknowledged that it is unclear whether there will be sufficient funding to pay all eligible applicants. This contradicts previous statements made by the department, which had claimed that the program would continue to operate until all eligible applications were processed and paid.

The rent relief program was established to help struggling tenants cover rental debt accumulated between the start of the pandemic and March 2022. However, the housing department has been struggling to address a backlog of unaddressed applicants and unresolved rejection appeals for the past 19 months.

Currently, there are 92,713 Californians awaiting an initial decision on their financial assistance request, and another 34,751 have appealed a prior rejection. The program’s potential depletion of funds coincides with the expiration of COVID-era eviction moratoriums in the state, leading to an increase in eviction proceedings in Los Angeles and Alameda County.

In conclusion, California’s COVID-era rent relief program is facing the risk of running out of money, leaving many renters who are still awaiting assistance in a precarious situation. The program has been marred by delays and criticism, and the housing department has struggled to process a large number of applications and appeals. The potential depletion of funds comes at a time when eviction moratoriums are expiring, creating additional challenges for renters in the state.

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