Thousands of Californians in limbo as eviction protections end

The gap between completed and approved applications has shrunk dramatically over the past week as case management ramped up. On June 30, the program’s dashboard showed that about 404,000 people had completed their applications. Late this morning, after the original posting of this story, the dashboard was updated to show only 352K completed apps. Ross said more than 70,000 applicants were removed from the waiting list and issued a refusal due to account inactivity. He said applicants with incomplete applications were contacted at least three times and given at least 20 days to respond, several times longer.

Using data from June 23, PolicyLink, which has been reviewing weekly program data from the state through Public Record Act requests, found more than 28,000 initial applicants and 57,000 re-applyers who had yet to receive a response from the program. Ross of the Department of Housing said the data, although produced by the state, had “interpretation flaws” but declined to comment on details.

Horn LLP, a Mississippi-based accounting firm that specializes in disaster relief, will get a maximum of $278 million to distribute federal rental relief funds up to a maximum of $4.5 billion, according to an April 1 contract renewal obtained by CalMatters through the Public Records Act. On June 17. The housing division has not been able to determine how much has been paid to the company yet.

State Assemblyman Buffy Weeks, an Auckland Democrat and co-author of the latest extension, admitted that the program was “incredibly frustrating.” She said that the state’s housing ministry confirmed that it would pay the eligibility application fees.

“I think it’s no secret that there are challenges,” she said. “And while I sympathize with some of the challenges we as a state government have faced in dealing with a global pandemic that none of us expected, our job as a government is also to do well especially when you talk about important social safety nets.”

But there is a silver lining to tenant advocates. A key part of the law that has now expired was to preempt tougher local action against evictions, many of which will now be in effect, including in Los Angeles County.

The state faces at least two lawsuits over the program from tenant advocates, who argue that it refused to fund eligible tenants and does not cover the amount of rent debt originally pledged.

More than 135,000 people — or roughly a third of all households — who have applied for a rent waiver have had their applications denied as of June 17, according to CalMatters data obtained from the Department of Housing through the Public Records Act. That number has risen in the past few weeks as the program has ended. The lawsuit, which cites the same set of data, says tenants receive little or no explanation for their refusal, making it difficult to appeal the final decision.

“Tenants face eviction even as landlords are given these giant checks and eligible tenants are denied assistance with these coded notices that don’t tell them why,” said Madeline Howard, senior attorney at the Western Center for Law and Poverty, one of the groups suing the state over the program, “It is illogical.”

Ross, of the housing department, was unable to provide specific numbers on the denial, but said that about half of the applicants are disqualified due to ineligibility: they either earn too much money, don’t reside in a state program location, and have applied for a time slot outside the program guidelines Or they were unable to prove the term of their rent or the impact of the pandemic on their ability to pay rent. The other half of the rejections were due to incomplete or inactive applications. He said an unspecified number of requests were fraudulent or submitted multiple times.

He said tenants with incomplete applications are told which department they need to provide additional proof, but are not limited to specific documents. He also said they were instructed on how to reach case managers for help.

Weeks said the state’s latest budget, approved this week, includes nearly $2 billion to pay off a state line of credit earlier this year to pay renters who applied before March 31, though it doesn’t include any new rent money. satisfaction. The program covered rent for up to 18 months between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2022 for low-income renters who have been financially affected by COVID-19.

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