How long are Californians waiting for rent relief?

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Of more than 488,000 households that have applied for assistance since the program launched in March 2021, around 180,000 have been approved. Four percent were turned down and more than half of applicants are still awaiting a response, according to the study, produced by the National Equity Atlas, Housing Now and the Western Center on Law & Poverty using state data.

But even most tenants whose applications have been approved are still waiting for a check, according to the analysis. Of the 180,000 households whose applications have been approved, just over 75,000 households have been paid. And they still need more help: 90% of these households asked for more money again.

The number of people paid, according to the study, is significantly lower than what is shown on the state’s public dashboard – 191,000 households “served” and $2.2 billion paid.

Monica Hernández, spokeswoman for the California Department of Housing and Community Development, disputed the report’s findings and said the state’s dashboard contains “the most current and accurate numbers.”

Of 467,000 applications completed to date, 191,000 payments, or 41%, have been made, she said, and each week more than $80 million is paid out to more than 8,000 households.

The study authors said they stand by their analysis, which shows $900 million has been paid (“full claim, paid” in state data), while another $1.15 billion dollars has been approved (“application complete, payment pending”).

“It doesn’t matter if you have a piece of paper that says you’re approved, you need the money,” said Madeline Howard, senior attorney at Western Center and co-author of the report. “It doesn’t reflect the experience of renters living hand-to-mouth.”

The study also found that applicants waited an average of more than three months to get approved, and another month to get paid – 135 days in total. However, wait times have shortened: households who applied for assistance last March waited about six months to be paid, while those who applied in October had to wait just under four months.

In his email response, Hernández said the wait time metric “does not account for different rules applied by different apps at different times” or “for incomplete, duplicate, or potentially fraudulent apps that we just just cleared data.”

“It doesn’t matter if you have a piece of paper that says you’re approved, you need the money.”

Madeline Howard, senior attorney at the Western Center on Law & Poverty

California received about $5.2 billion from the federal government to help renters stay housed and pay landlords. The state is responsible for administering about half of this, while 25 cities and counties administer the rest. The new study focuses on the state’s program, which covers nearly two-thirds of Californians.

In January, the state received $62 million in additional federal aid, just 3% of the nearly $2 billion requested in November. Still, California received a third of the reallocated funds from the U.S. Treasury, which Hernandez said speaks to “federal officials’ confidence in our ability to distribute funds to needy households in a timely manner.”

According to Hernández, a budget bill passed by the Legislature in February that allocates General Fund dollars to state and local rent relief programs “means that each eligible applicant requesting assistance for eligible costs submitted and incurred at most late March 31, 2022, will be assisted.”

The new study is the most comprehensive look yet at how rent relief is playing out in California.

The full dataset was only released to the Western Center through the Public Records Act after the center announced its intention to sue the Department of Housing and Community Development, which administers the program with using a private contractor. Repeated requests from the Public Records Act for the full dataset had already been denied. These groups have tracked California’s eviction and rent relief efforts from the start.

CalMatters requested similar data from the state through multiple requests under the Public Records Act and was repeatedly told the data did not exist.

“We don’t track data or report on when people applied and then they got a response. What we do is we can look at the age of applications in the system and make sure all applications are assigned to a certain date,” said Geoffrey Ross, Assistant Director of the Financial Aid Division. federal to the housing department. CalMatters on October 11.

Hernández said that statement was accurate at the time.

A state ban on evictions for nonpayment of rent went into effect early in the pandemic and has been extended several times. This protection ended last October – on one condition. Until March 31, landlords would be barred from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent until September 30, 2021, if they had applied for rent relief from the state. This extra layer of protection disappears on April 1.

“I’m really confused as to why we haven’t heard anything about expanding eviction protections,” Howard said. “People are waiting. They don’t have their money. »

The state’s rent relief program continues to face other challenges that have persisted since its inception, according to another recent survey of 58 tenant organizations across the state by Tenants Together, a group of defense. Ninety percent of survey respondents reported difficulty accessing the app and 82% reported difficulty getting information about their apps.

The survey found that California’s most vulnerable tenants — including non-English speakers, seniors and people with informal leases — continue to face the greatest barriers to getting rent relief.

“I think there’s a lack of understanding in the legislature that people become homeless after being evicted from their homes,” said Shanti Singh, legislative and communications director for the group that conducted the investigation.

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