Applications start next week for $259 million rent-relief program aimed at LA’s most desperate

Los Angeles residents struggling with housing costs because of the pandemic are getting some much needed help, thanks to a city program that offers at least $259 million for rent relief.

City Council leaders and Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Tuesday, March 23, that Angelenos can begin applying for the aid starting next Tuesday, March 30, at 8 a.m. until Friday, April 30, at 11:59 p.m.

“To the renters of Los Angeles help is on the way,” said Councilman Mike Bonin. “Relief is here.”

Funding for the city’s 2021 COVID-19 Emergency Renters Assistance Program comes from last December’s federal COVID -19 relief package. It builds on a rent relief effort launched last July by the city that provided $103 million in rent assistance that was made possible through an earlier federal aid package.

That earlier program helped pay the rent for tens of thousands of families, said Council President Nury Martinez.

The previous program provided up to $2,000 in aid per household, while the new program would offer relief for an entire year. Landlords will be offered payment for 80% of their tenants’ past due or unpaid rent from April 2020 until March 2021 — if they forgive the renter on the remaining 20% of what is owed.

If the landlord does not agree to those terms, the program will pay a quarter of the past or unpaid rent and a quarter of the tenant’s upcoming rent for three months.

To be eligible to apply, households must:

  • Live within Los Angeles city limits;
  • Have at least one person who qualified for unemployment benefits, had their income cut back or their costs go up significantly or faced financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  • Report a combined income at or below 50% of the area median level.

The eligibility rules prioritize those who are struggling the most, compared to the previous program, in which the income cutoff was set at households that earned at or below 80% of the area median income.

Martinez said the aid is being made available to “those desperately in need of help.”

Garcetti said even more aid could be coming from the $1.9 trillion federal American Rescue Plan, which could add another $250 million to L.A.’s rent-relief pot.

He said that this is one more indication that things are getting better, after a challenging year.

“We definitely can feel hope on the horizon,” he said. “We can feel it in the vaccinations that are going into people’s arms and money that is going into people’s pockets.”

More information about the rent relief program is available at https://hcidla.lacity.org.

People who live outside of the program could apply for similar rent relief aid at the state’s website, at https://housing.ca.gov.

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