Redwood City Responds: There is Still Time to Apply for State COVID-19 Rent and Utility Relief

One of the biggest challenges that arose from the pandemic has been housing displacement, prompting state and local eviction protections and rent relief programs.

In this Blog, learn more about the early steps the City Council took to prevent evictions of residents and establish a COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance program; Statewide Rent Relief and Eviction Protections; and how there is still time to apply for State rent and utility relief!

Redwood City COVID-19 Emergency Rent Relief and Eviction Protections

On March 23, 2020, the City Council voted to get an update on potential San Mateo County efforts to prevent evictions of residents, and if necessary, direct staff to develop an urgency ordinance to implement a moratorium on the eviction of residential tenants for non-payment of rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They also adopted a resolution allocating $150,000 from Existing Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) to fund a COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Fund.

On March 24, the County Board of Supervisors enacted a local countywide moratorium on evictions to protect tenants who were unable to pay rent due to COVID-19, so the City did not need to create its own moratorium. Later on, the State created a moratorium, offering statewide protections.

On April 6, 2020, the Redwood City City Council allocated an additional $393,000 to fund the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Fund and adopted a resolution to waive late payment penalties for solid waste, water and sewer utilities for the period of March 2020 through August 2020 for residential and commercial customers.

Altogether, to support those at risk of homelessness due to the pandemic, Redwood City has provided more than $3.3 million in emergency rental assistance through the Fair Oaks Community Center — including federal block grant funding, county funding, City general funds, and private grants — for more than 1,030 households unable to pay rent.

In June 2021, the City launched the Water and Sewer Rate Assistance Program (WSRAP) to qualifying utility ratepayers. Eligibility is based on household income and qualifying applicants will receive a credit up to $80 on their utility bill. Learn more here.

Testimonial from Redwood City Resident

May, one of the residents whose household received funding, said, “I’m a single mom with two children who was temporarily furloughed at the end of March last year, due to the shelter in place order, causing my employer to close down. With the initial COVID Rent Relief provided by the City through the Fair Oaks Community Center, I was able to cover my rent until I returned to work. Unfortunately, due to the Regional Stay at Home Order in December 2020, I was once again furloughed. I decided to look for new employment and found a job that would have started at the beginning of February 2021, but due to testing positive for COVID-19, I had to quarantine and delay the start of my new employment. Fair Oaks Community Center was again able to help me with COVID Rent Relief to carry me through until I was able to start my new job.”

State of California Rent Relief and Eviction Protections

On June 28, 2021, Governor Gavin Newson signed the latest legislation, AB 832, which extended California’s COVID-19 Rent Relief Program and Eviction Moratorium to Sept. 30, 2021. It also increased rent-relief reimbursement to 100 percent for both past due and prospective payments, providing protection for both tenants and landlords (including utilities).

Round 1 and Round 2 Emergency Rental Assistance Funding from the federal government (Coronavirus Relief Fund and the American Rescue Plan) provides over $90 million for rent and utility assistance due to COVID impact for San Mateo County residents through the California COVID19 Rent Relief Program. The moratorium made it illegal to evict tenants who have provided a declaration of COVID-19 related financial distress to their landlord and paid at least 25 percent of rent due from Sept. 1, 2020 through Sept. 30. Tenants have been doing this by paying 25 percent each month, or by paying a lump sum equaling 25 percent of rent owed during this period by Sept. 30, 2021. State law prohibits landlords from getting a court order for eviction before giving tenants a chance to apply for rent relief through March 2022.

For more information, and to apply for statewide rent and utility relief, please visit the Housing is Key website here. For application assistance, call the Fair Oaks Community Center at 650–780–7440.

Since the creation of the California COVID-19 Rent Relief Program, the City has been encouraging tenants and landlords to apply for the state program.

According to State data, 5,106 households in San Mateo County had applied as of September 22, 2021. Of this number, 713 households are from Redwood City. Between March 15, 2021 and Sept. 20, 2021, the Fair Oaks Community Center assisted a total of 210 households with applying for relief.

There is Still Time to Apply for State Rent Relief

Although tenants can still apply for CA COVID Rent Relief even after the Sept. 30 deadline, it is strongly recommended that those needing assistance apply by the end of the month to take full advantage of the tenant protections under AB 832. You can apply for rent relief, as well as utility relief, here.

WHO CAN APPLY?

· Renters who have experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19 and have a household income that is not more than 80 percent of the area median income. Check your household income level here.

· Landlords who have income-eligible renters experiencing a financial hardship due to COVID-19 with past due rent.

HOW MUCH CAN THEY RECEIVE?

Unpaid Rent Support

· Landlords who participate in the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program can get reimbursed for 100 percent of an eligible renter’s unpaid rent dating back to April 1, 2020.

· If a landlord does not participate in the program, income-eligible renters can receive rental assistance for 100 percent of unpaid rent dating back to April 1, 2020.

Future Rent and Utility Support

· Eligible renters may also receive financial assistance for 100 percent of upcoming rent as well.

· Eligible renters may also receive assistance for 100 percent of unpaid utilities dating back April 1, 2020, or for future utility payments. Assistance is limited to a total of 12 months.

HOW TO APPLY

To check eligibility requirements or apply visit www.HousingIsKey.com or call (833) 430–2122, toll free. If you need assistance applying, please call the Fair Oaks Community Center at (650) 780–7500. Learn more and apply here.

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