Lower-income Californians who fell behind on their rent payments during the COVID-19 pandemic may now receive 100% of their past-due rent in full and even a few months' worth of upcoming rent, under a new $5.2 billion program launched by the state.
The program, which was included in the 2021-22 fiscal year budget signed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this week, is the largest rental assistance program in the nation. It will be paid for using federal taxpayer dollars the state of California received for coronavirus relief, paying for rent due as far back as April of 2020 and for future rent through September of this year.
An additional $2 billion has also been dedicated to pay for residents' past-due utility bills.
"With robust COVID rental protections and the largest rent relief program of any state in the nation, we’re protecting millions of struggling Californians worried about keeping a roof over their heads or making next month’s mortgage by covering 100% of past-due and prospective rent payments, as well as overdue water and utility bills," Newsom said in Los Angeles Wednesday, where he held a media conference to promote the new programs.
The governor noted that renters who applied for assistance during the state's previous rent relief program and received 25% or 80% of their owed rent do not need to apply again, FOX 11 in Los Angeles reported. Newsom explained, "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%."
In order to be eligible for the program, a Californian must earn 80% or less of their area's median income. Newsom gave the example during his news conference that a family of four in Los Angeles County should qualify if their income is around $95,000. Applicants must also have been impacted directly by COVID-19 – which could seemingly apply to virtually everyone.
Newsom urged people to apply for the rental assistance quickly, saying that as of Wednesday morning, more than $1 billion had already been requested from the program.