CALIFORNIA, USA — Gov. Gavin Newsom joined Los Angeles-area renters Wednesday to promote the state's $5.2 billion program to pay back 100% of rent for low-income renters, regardless of immigration status, who were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"If we see mass evictions, we will have seen something we've never experienced in our lifetime, and that's the number of people on streets and sidewalks that will overwhelm. That's why this program is so important," Newsom said.
The program is part of the state's 2021-22 fiscal year budget, which was signed by Newsom on Monday. Applicants can receive 100% of rent owed from April 2020 and through September 2021. Newsom urged people to apply as soon as possible to ensure they receive the money before the eviction moratorium expires on Sept. 30. He added that there was only a "very modest" chance that it would be extended again.
Two renters who applied to the program spoke beside Newsom to urge people to apply.
"I didn't believe it either, I didn't think it was true. It's true. You guys have to apply, they're going to help you. Don't not do it, we all have to do this," a woman from South Gate said.
Another woman, who said she owed two months of rent, said, "People don't believe it, but it does work. It's true."
Newsom said that renters who applied during the state's previous program and received 25% or 80% of their owed rent do not need to apply again.
"We are automatically topping that off, you don't have to come back and reapply. We're taking care of everybody that went through that other program and providing 100%," he said.
Grace Martinez of ACCE San Diego said having the large amount of money is one thing, but distributing it to landlords in a timely fashion is another.
”All we hear is that it’s 100 percent, but what does that really mean if you haven’t gotten the rental assistance money yet?" said Martinez.
"I think the best way to describe this, because like there’s been no infrastructure to do something like this prior, is it’s like building a plane, while flying it, while not knowing what a plan looks like," said Martinez.
The state's Secretary of Business, Consumer Services and Housing, Lourdes Castro Ramirez, said officials aim to distribute rent relief within 30 days of a person's application being submitted. The dollars will go directly to the landlord.
"The notion that every landlord is greedy and some corporate landlord is nonsense," Newsom said. "The vast majority of landlords in this community are small landlords that are paying their own mortgages ... and they're struggling as well with the tenants, and so we're mindful of that and that's why this program is topping off at 100%."
It's important to note that both San Diego County, the city of San Diego, and the city of Chula Vista have their own local rental assistance programs, so people who live in any of those have to apply on the county or city websites. A spokesperson for the county said it's distributing $107 million in rental assistance.
Newsom added that the process is "laborious" to ensure that people don't use the program to commit abuse and fraud. However, people from the state are available to help with the process, whether it's because of language barriers or because the process is long and complicated.
Renters and landlords in California interested in the statewide program can apply here.
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