California’s Rent-Relief Program to Stop Taking Applications March 31

A view of tall buildings in San Francisco's Marina district, with a palm tree in the foreground. California tenants facing COVID-19 hardships must request rent and utility assistance before the end of March, when the state will stop accepting applications for rent relief.

Ben Wicks

California tenants facing COVID-19 hardships must request rent and utility assistance before the end of March, when the state will stop accepting applications.

California will stop accepting applications for rent assistance from people facing COVID-19 hardships at the end of this month, the San Francisco mayor’s office said.

Local governments throughout the state will have to figure out how to help people still struggling to cover rent as the economy continues its climb back to pre-pandemic levels.

“We are working diligently with our community-based program partners on a public information and outreach campaign to get all eligible tenants and landlords to apply and respond to the program by March 31st,” said Audrey Abadilla, spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

The state has committed “to provide support to eligible applicants” who apply for rent relief by then, according to a government memo the Public Press obtained and that Abadilla verified as authentic.

“It is critical applicants act as quickly as possible to complete their application and reply to any requested action or response,” the memo said, because that would allow quicker processing.

People can apply for financial aid to cover past or future rent and utility fees, going back to April 2020.

Though the statewide eviction moratorium ended in October, rent-relief applicants have retained eviction protections while they awaited a decision from the government.

Those protections will also terminate at the end of March, meaning that landlords will be able to evict renters with outstanding debts beginning April 1. To avoid eviction, by that date tenants must pay at least 25% of what was due from the beginning of September 2020 to the end of September 2021, as well as 100% of what came due since then.

Potentially thousands of San Franciscans will still be awaiting payments by April, leaving them vulnerable to eviction, based on a recent Public Press analysis. Renters across the state could face the same risk, according to a survey published Tuesday by Tenants Together, a statewide coalition of tenant-rights groups.

San Franciscans have continued to apply for rent relief in recent weeks, though the pace has slowed compared with earlier in the pandemic, according to the Public Press’ Rent Relief Tracker. The government had received $298.4 million in requests and paid out $115.7 million by last week.

Throughout California, requests totaled at least $7.1 billion by mid-February, and the state had paid out at least $2.1 billion from more than $5 billion available, according to data from the California Department of Housing and Community Development. Those figures do not count requests and payments processed by locally operated rent-relief programs throughout California.

Last month, the Legislature passed a budget bill that authorizes the state to pour more money into the rent relief program if the volume of eligible applications merits it.

Eviction protections for people facing COVID-19 hardships are complex, and the Public Press has created a flow chart to help tenants understand their rights.

Are you facing eviction? Call the Eviction Defense Collaborative at (415) 659-9184 or send an email to [email protected] as soon as possible. The organization advises that tenants respond within five days of being served with court papers to avoid the risk of a default judgment against them.

Is your landlord suing you to recover pandemic rent debt? Go here to read our guide on how small claims court works, and how to argue your side of the case.

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