by Lee Hubbard
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck last year, killing thousands of people throughout the country and the state of California, it also immobilized the nation’s workforce, as millions of people couldn’t work, worked from home or had their hours reduced. This made people have to choose between eating and paying rent – many choose to eat.
Gavin Newsom set in place a moratorium in the state of California preventing evictions as a federal moratorium was also put in place by President Joe Biden. The federal moratorium was ended last week, after a 6-3 vote by the Supreme Court. It had been implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and extended by President Joe Biden’s administration days after it was set to expire on July 31.
Money was also set aside for renters and, in some cases, small landlords, by federal and state agencies. California set aside more than $5 billion federal dollars to help to pay overdue rent, but only a fraction of that money has been spent.
Time is ticking as the rent moratorium is set to expire statewide in October. In a recent press briefing held by the ERAP rent relief program for Alameda County, county officials stressed that these funds need to be used by people to help cover rents.
“We have had 5,400 applicants in Alameda County for the program, and 4,500 of those applicants are under review,” said Jennifer Pearce of Alameda County. “Of those applicants, 827 have been approved.”
Money can be applied to rent, utilities and back rent for tenants.
Close to 34,000 people in Alameda County were behind in rent as of January of 2021, according to the Bay Area Equity Atlas. In Alameda County, Blacks and Hispanics make up a large share of renters and, of these renters, people of color make up 87 percent of renters behind in payments.
Pearce said that the county’s rent relief program needs to be used by all people in the county who are struggling. She says that not only is it open to renters, but also small landlords. The average amount of financial assistance ushered out to those who apply is $15,000.
Money can be applied to rent, utilities and back rent for tenants. People who apply for the program are allowed up to 12 months of back rent and up to three months of future rent.
In order to apply for the program, you must be a resident of Alameda County, show proof of income and show how Covid-19 impacted your household or income. Pearce said you can apply online or by telephone for the ERAP program in Alameda or look to various housing non-profits for further information.
Lee Hubbard is a Bay Area journalist who earned his masters’ degree in journalism at Northeastern University. Well known to longtime Bay View readers, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.