Dozens of advocates and residents on Tuesday urged San Mateo County supervisors to extend renter protections after the statewide eviction moratorium expires at the end of June.
California renters who cannot afford to pay rent due to the pandemic cannot be evicted once they pay 25% of their rent. These protections expire June 30 and renters will owe the full cost of their rent debt, with the possibility they could be evicted starting July 1.
During the public comment period at the county board meeting, over 30 advocates and residents asked supervisors to either urge the state to extend eviction protections or to enact a countywide eviction moratorium starting July 1 if the state does not act.
Many of the advocates who called in represented Faith in Action Bay Area, a network of faith-based organizations advocating for low-income renters and immigrant communities.
"With accumulated rent and continued economic downturn making stable employment difficult, the county quote unquote 'opening up' as normal again in June is not the end of the struggle families in our county are facing," one Faith in Action organizer said. "We can't just turn a blind eye and pretend like all is well."
While statewide rent relief is available for applications by both landlords and tenants, advocates say some landlords are unaware of the assistance or unwilling to apply. Plus, the paperwork and lengthy requirements can make it difficult to apply. Tuesday's callers also asked county supervisors to provide more support for renters and landlords applying for rent relief.
Six Spanish-speaking residents at the Westlake Village Apartments in Daly City shared their personal struggle with affording rent. Many had lost jobs or had hours reduced due to the pandemic, then accrued months of rent debt that in some cases amounted to over $10,000. As a result, they worry about being evicted in July once statewide renter protections end.
"COVID has affected all the family including me, because I am a senior," one Westlake resident who lives with her two grandchildren said via a translator at Tuesday's meeting. "I am concerned and worried that they're going to take me out of the apartment."
Board President David Canepa said supervisors would not let people fall through the cracks.
"We must pressure the state to extend the moratorium and look within to see whether we must do it ourselves before the deadline expires," Canepa said. "But the state really plays a big part in that."
County Manager Mike Callagy said that of the $47 million in rent relief available to the county, only about $13 million had been requested so far. He encouraged people to reach out to the county's core agencies, such as Samaritan House and Project Sentinel, to get help applying for assistance through the state.
"We have people in place that will walk everyone through the process. I could tell you that at the early onset we had a lot of people apply and now that number is dwindling very quickly," Callagy said. "That $47 million is 'use it or lose it' so we want everyone to avail themselves of that."
California's rent relief application for landlords and tenants is available at https://housing.ca.gov/covid_rr/index.html. A list of community organizations that can assist with applications is also available on the state's website.