Credit: Ashley Ladin | Mustang News

San Luis Obispo County eligible tenants behind on their rent due to a COVID-19 hardship could receive between 25% and 80% of their overdue rent paid for under the California COVID-19 Rent Relief Program. 

Tenants are eligible if they can prove a COVID-19 related financial hardship and have past due rent, according to a press release. They must also demonstrate a risk of homelessness and cannot have a household income of more than 80% of the area median income. 

5 Cities Homeless Coalition is a one of the local partner organizations working to assist residents with their applications and answer questions. The other local partners are Salvation Army San Luis Obispo and United Way San Luis Obispo. 

5 Cities Homeless Coalition helped Pismo Beach resident Sergio Ahumada, age 55, apply for the California COVID-19 Rent Relief program when he reached out to them for assistance after he was furloughed from his job due to COVID-19. 

Ahumada was confused with the process before 5 Cities Homeless Coalition helped him. 

“They want a lot of stuff and all these documents,” Ahumada said in a phone interview, “[5 Cities] took care of me.” 

When he finally did get back to work, Ahumada still had some payments to catch up on. He said he is hopeful this program will help him get back on track. 

Landlords who work with their eligible tenants could be reimbursed for 80% of their tenant’s unpaid rent from the dates April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021 on the condition that they waive 20% of the remaining unpaid rent. If this agreement is met, the landlord forgives the remaining 20%. This cannot be a reason for future eviction according to the Associate Director of 5 Cities Homeless Coalition, Devon McQuade. 

Eligible renters whose landlords do not participate in the program can still apply on their own for relief. They can receive 25% of their unpaid rent for the same time period.

To apply for the program, renters must prove a loss of income or significant costs incurred due to COVID-19, such as a letter of termination, an application for unemployment benefits or a declaration of COVID-related hardships. The state will also consider other items to prove eligibility. Applicants who apply for the program will not be required to show proof of citizenship.

The state does not need a formal lease agreement with the landlord to be eligible, but they do require some sort of documentation with the tenants monthly rent, according to McQuade. 

“This is to meet those hard-to-reach families that haven’t qualified for other programs [and] that have fallen substantially behind,” McQuade said. “They can come out of this without a huge lump sum of debt.” 

The need for this kind of program arose out of the increased need for housing assistance services. Although the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition has year-round homeless prevention funds, when COVID-19 hit they had many more families seeking their help.  

“Our funds were not sufficient for the need in the community,” McQuade said. 

Tenants and landlords can visit to apply and determine program eligibility. The county encourages tenants to reach out to the community partner organizations for assistance in filing for rent relief.

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