By Bob Highfill
Landlords and eligible households are encouraged to work together to take advantage of a program that provides housing stability for those facing economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
El Concilio in Stockton has been contracted by the City of Stockton to administer the Emergency Rental Assistance Program that will distribute funds to individuals and families who are behind on their rent and utilities payments due to COVID.
“We have about $20 million through the city that we are planning to distribute to residents of the City of Stockton who may find themselves in need of rental assistance,” said Jose R. Rodriguez, President and Chief Executive Officer of El Concilio. “Renters can apply on their own or they can apply with their landlord. We encourage them to apply with their landlord because the amount of money we are able to give them is greater if they apply together than if the tenant applies individually.”
Rodriguez said the State of California has indicated it may continue to fund the program with an additional $10 million, and San Joaquin County may begin dispersing funds in July.
The program was launched on March 15, 2021, and the deadline has been extended to September. Thus far, some 1,000 applicants have received assistance. The assistance goes directly to the landlord or utility provider. An application for rental assistance may be submitted by either an eligible household or by a landlord on behalf of an eligible household. By working together during the application process, landlords and eligible households can maximize the amount of assistance received.
The maximum funding that may be awarded to a landlord on behalf of a tenant is 80 percent of the eligible household’s unpaid rental debt covering up to a maximum 12 months, from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021. As a condition of the award, a landlord must agree to waive the remaining 20 percent of the rental obligation outstanding for the time awarded. If a landlord chooses not to participate, the tenant funding request for past due rent is limited to 25 percent of the eligible household’s unpaid rental debt accumulated from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021, plus any outstanding utility arrears covering the same time period.
“Most landlords are cooperative and are participating because they want to be made whole again,” Rodriguez said. “But there always is some skepticism about free money, and so some people are hesitant.” Qualified tenants will also be able to access funds to cover 25 percent of prospective rent for the months of April, May, and June of 2021, subject to funding availability. Eligible participants must have been unemployed for the 90 days prior to applying. One or more tenants must qualify for unemployment or must have experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19. Applicants must provide documentation that verifies loss of income due to COVID-19 and have current income that does not exceed 80 percent of area median income based on family size.
Households with income below 50 percent area median income will be prioritized. Rodriguez said most of the applicants are residents of south and central Stockton. “But we’re getting applications from everywhere,” he said. “We’re getting about 40 applications a day, so I know there is a lot of need out there.”
El Concilio is the only organization contracted to process the applications but has subcontracted with community partners, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Stockton Branch, Asian Pacific Self-Development and Residential Association, Family Resource and Referral, the four chambers (San Joaquin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, African American Chamber of Commerce, Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce, and Central Valley Asian-American Chamber of Commerce) and others to help El Concilio promote the program and encourage other constituencies to apply.
“We want people to apply and take advantage of this program,” Rodriguez said. “Their immigration status is not important. The main thing is what we are trying to do is prevent people from being evicted and becoming homeless. So, we’re really encouraging everyone to apply and look into the application, fill it out, and see what happens.”
El Concilio will announce sign-up opportunities at the Cesar Chavez Library in downtown Stockton and other libraries, community centers and locations to assist those who do not have internet access.
For more information, including applications and a list of required documentation, visit https://www.elconcilio.org/covid19/emergency-rental-assistance-program/.
Interested applicants can also find the application on The City of Stockton’s website: https://www.stocktonca.gov/government/departments/econDev/houseERA.html