City News Service
RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A program to aid financially strapped Riverside County renters who need funds to cover all or part of their lease payments for several months because of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic was approved today by the Board of Supervisors.
“This is a victory for the renter and the property owner,” board Chairman Manuel Perez said. “There are many more issues in front of us. But I’m glad we were able to get this done.”
In a 5-0 vote, the board authorized formation of the Riverside County Rental Relief Fund, which will make $30 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security — CARES — Act money available for distribution to qualifying renters and landlords.
Two nonprofits, the Palm Desert-based nonprofit Lift to Rise and Riverside-based United Way of the Inland Valleys, will be the administrators of the program. Lift to Rise will oversee 35%, while the larger United Way will handle 65% of the outgo.
According to Perez, who spearheaded the effort to establish the program, residents of any unincorporated community and all cities within the county can apply for assistance.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride on this issue,” said Supervisor Kevin Jeffries. “But this is a win-win. It’s a good approach.”
Jeffries had signaled opposition to an earlier proposal by the chair to institute a blanket moratorium on evictions until the coronavirus emergency was no longer active. However, Perez’s initial proposal was considered moot after Gov. Gavin Newsom last week renewed statewide regulations limiting when and how landlords can proceed with evictions.
Under the county program, renters can apply for up to three months of financial aid — with no repayment requirements — or receive a maximum cash infusion of $3,500, whichever is less. However, Lift to Rise and United Way of the Inland Valleys will be tasked with confirming all funds go to rent coverage, and nothing else.
As many as 10,000 households will be able to receive assistance, according to the county Department of Housing, Homelessness Prevention and Workforce Solutions.
Newsom’s executive orders imposing limits on evictions were issued on March 16 and March 27, and both are now valid until July 28.
In the first order, the governor directed that if a tenant’s failure to pay rent is due to a substantial loss of income directly related to illness or the government’s mitigation measures — specifically, his stay-at-home order — evictions cannot proceed. However, lessees must show documentation proving need.
In the second order, the governor extended a tenant’s time to respond to an eviction lawsuit from five to 65 days. But certain conditions apply, including documentation indicating that the reason for failing to pay rent stemmed from being sick, out of work because of the emergency or taking care of a child unable to attend school because it was shut down under a local emergency order.
The California Judicial Council implemented procedures that further relax eviction requirements imposed on renters in default, banning automatic judgments against them because they fail to appear in court to defend against a landlord’s suit during the statewide emergency.
Similar protections are available to homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure.
The CARES Act prohibits foreclosure proceedings on any federally backed mortgages, and borrowers can seek forbearance for up to 12 months.
Information about the rent assistance program will be available at the two nonprofits’ websites in the coming days.