Delays plague California's rent assistance programs as March 31 deadline looms

ByMichael Finney and Randall Yip KGO logo
Tuesday, March 29, 2022
Delays plague CA rent relief programs as March 31 deadline looms
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Though advocates are hopeful the California eviction moratorium will be extended, renters who need help must still file by the March 31 deadline.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Time is running out for renters to act in order to protect themselves from eviction.

The California legislature is expected to pass -- and Governor Newsom is expected to sign -- a measure to extend the eviction moratorium another three months. But those protections won't apply to you unless you meet this Thursday's deadline.

Prem Valverde of San Jose helps raise the bed of her husband Gilbert. He's been working on getting his ability to speak back.

"Gilbert Valverde," says Gilbert confidently after we ask him his name.

"Very good, honey. Wow," his surprised wife says. "He just learned his letters. I'm so excited."

It's been a rough year so far for the county emergency worker. He spent two months at the hospital with pneumonia and then developed COVID. He had to go on a ventilator and during that time suffered a stroke. He almost died.

RELATED: Delays in state assistance frustrate local family. What's behind the delays?

After Comcast cut its services, the state blamed them for the delay in processing the payment. The state had sent a paper check to Comcast that the utility said did not get processed until after the deadline.

Behind on their rent, the family applied for California rental assistance in September, and each time they called they were told no case worker had been assigned to their case.

"This was their answer in September 21, October, November," said Prem.

And that answer hasn't changed since.

They are one of an estimated 366,000 people who applied for rental assistance and are still waiting.

But as long as the eviction moratorium is in place they are protected from losing their homes.

"I think that's great. They're helping people stay in their home. They're helping less people be on the street," said Prem.

VIDEO: Fraudulent rent relief claims divert funds, delay responses to those in need

One security expert believes that 25 to 30% of rent relief claims are fraudulent.

While they wait for an answer, the family's sole provider fights to recover.

He's even gotten back on his feet and, with the help of a walker, is able to take a few steps again.

Yet the pressure on the family has been unbearable throughout the ordeal.

"Oh, my whole world went upside down. My husband is the sole provider. I mean, what can you imagine, that the person that takes care of the whole family is in the hospital and might die," Prem said, fighting through tears.

The eviction moratorium, however, gives the family comfort.

But those protections only apply to people like Gilbert who've applied for emergency rent assistance.

VIDEO: Single mom of 3 who helped families apply for rent relief could be homeless when CA program expires

California's rent relief program "Housing is Key" expires next Thursday. Many applicants are still waiting for financial aid.

If you haven't signed up, you could still be evicted, even during the moratorium.

Tenant advocates warn the deadline to sign up is Thursday, March 31.

"Those eviction protections will only be applicable for folks who were able to get their applications in prior to March 31," said Lorraine Lopez of the Western Center on Law & Poverty.

Lopez is urging the state to also extend the renter assistance program beyond March 31. She says many prospective applicants have been unable to access the program.

"So there was data showing households that speak primarily Spanish and Chinese were not able to access the program. So they were very much underrepresented," she said.

RELATED: National median cost of rent jumped 17% since last year, hitting a new record

The whole process has been frustrating even for an English-speaking family as the Valverdes.

"But it's hard," said Gilbert.

For more information on rental assistance programs, visit the Local Initiatives Support Corporation website.

To apply for rental assistance, visit the Housing Is Key website (information is translated into several languages).

For data on the rental assistance program and its accessibility for those with limited English proficiency, visit the National Equity Atlas website.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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