CALIFORNIA – On Thursday, June 3, 2021 at 6 PM, Bishop Cantú of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San José along with 500 other faith and community leaders from the California Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) will convene on Zoom with state legislators to call on Governor Newsom to extend the eviction moratorium and amend SB 91 to allow more flexibility with rental assistance to keep families housed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated low-income Californians. More than half of the state’s workers who lost jobs over the last 14 months earn less than $50,000 per year. As a result over a million California households were behind on rent by the end of 2020, collectively owing nearly $4B according to the Bay Area Equity Atlas.
Counties have only distributed a fraction of the $2.6B that arrived from the US Treasury in December. While another $2.6B has become available through the American Rescue Plan, landlords and renters need more time to apply and receive assistance.
“We’re working around the clock to get this relief to our families,” said Marie Bernard, Executive Director of Sunnyvale Community Services, one of the programs working to distribute Santa Clara County’s allocation of relief funds. “But we need more time. The application process is lengthy and complicated. Even our tech-savvy, English-fluent clients are having a hard time; imagine what it’s like for families without reliable internet access who are trying to complete the application in their non-native language using a phone (including uploading multiple documents). June 30, the date the moratorium expires, is too soon to serve all of these families. We’ve got to keep them in their homes.”
Many families are not eligible for relief through SB 91; these are California’s most vulnerable renters and include many undocumented families. The current legislation provides relief only to tenants who owe back rent directly to their landlords. However, many residents borrowed money from family, friends, payday lenders and even loan sharks to “make rent” and keep a roof over their heads. In addition, families who sublease (and therefore don’t have the formal paperwork to apply for relief) have been left behind.
“We need to act quickly if we want to avoid a housing catastrophe,” said Pastor Vicky Flores from the Cal-Nevada Conference of the United Methodist Church and a leader with the Central Valley IAF Sponsoring Committee. “We’re asking the state to expand eligibility requirements to allow tenants to use these funds to prepay rent, as well as to expand eligibility to tenants who sublease from others. We must broaden the scope of relief to ensure that the families most at risk of homelessness have more time to rejoin the workforce and repay their debts.”
The June 3 California IAF convening represents seven broad-based organizations from across the state, covering Southern California, the Inland Empire, Central Coast, Bay Area and parts of the Central Valley and Far North. Local organizations work with faith communities, unions, schools and other institutions to teach people the habits and practices of public life. All organizations are nonpartisan, multi-issue and multilingual.
Contact: Mayra Bernabe, COPA / 831.786.6520 / firstname.lastname@example.org