By Victoria Buddie, Contributing Writer
On June 30th, 2020, the City Council voted to establish and expand a COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program to help struggling city residents pay rent. A Memorandum of Understanding with the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) will authorize the administration of the program, which will be executed with the use of $15,100,000 in CARES ACT Federal Funding.
The Chief Financial Officer will transfer $15.1 million of coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act Funds to SDHC to provide oversight and administration of the assistance program. Elderly households, with at least one member age 62 years or older and families with children, will be prioritized for the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. Applicants willing to apply must have incurred financial hardships due to COVID-19. To disburse funds fairly and to those who are most in need, the SDHC implemented a lottery and system of prioritization.
Molly Chase, City of San Diego Chief of Staff said the program was established for “households living in a market-rate unit with a San Diego address who have experienced a significant loss of income due to COVID-19 and who had a gross household income less than or equal to 60% area median income (AMI) prior to change in employment due to the pandemic. The program would also offer a maximum of $2,000 to households living in eligible affordable units with a San Diego address who have also suffered a significant loss of income due to COVID-19.”
The program excludes those receiving assistance through Section 8 vouchers, those who have savings above $4,000, or who have savings that do meet their housing needs. Applicants will be required to submit a self-certification about their savings when applying. 10% of the funding from the CARES Act will be reserved for paid assistance to qualifying non-profits for tenant outreach, administration, legal assistance, and education,
To apply, an online application portal will be created on the San Diego Housing Commission website. In the first week of July, they will release a page on their website about community outreach and communication for the program. In the second and third week of July, the application portal will be accessible on the website.
The application can only be accessed online. Therefore, renters in need without internet access or those in need of assistance will work with a community-based organization to complete the application process. The applicants who meet the eligibility requirements will then be entered into a lottery system, ranked, and prioritized.
Once the applicant is confirmed and eligible, the SDHC staff will coordinate with the selected applicant and their landlord or property manager to disperse the payment. The payment will be dispersed electronically to ensure tenants receive it in a timely manner. The Housing Committee will verify unit ownership, establish the landlord or property management company as a vendor, and receive documentation to enable them to receive a direct deposit payment.
Household Renters will be able to receive a one-time maximum payment of $4,000 through the emergency assistance program, with the hopes that 3,500 families will be assisted. If denied by the rental assistance program, due to immigration status, the application system will track applications that are denied in case a funding source is identified and allocated that does not have this restriction, in which case, the household will also have an opportunity to receive rental assistance.