Federal rental assistance must be given out by year's end; here's how to get help

ByMichael Finney and Randall Yip KGO logo
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
How to get assistance with rent during the pandemic
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As renters struggle to pay rent during the pandemic, time is running out to receive federal aid.

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- Millions of dollars in rental assistance are available for those in the Bay Area facing hardships due to the coronavirus pandemic. Much of this money comes from the CARES Act and must be distributed by the end of the year. If you think you qualify, you should act quickly.

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It's been a rough year for Christina O'Connor. The 71-year-old's unemployment benefits ran out right when the pandemic hit. She says she's drained her entire retirement savings to pay the rent.

"This is the toughest thing I've ever endured in my whole entire life," said O'Connor.

Now she doesn't know how she's going to keep her home.

The eviction moratorium in San Mateo County expired Aug. 31.

"Scared to be homeless? Very. You know I've always paid my bills. I've always paid my taxes. I've always worked and here I am," O'Connor said.

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Aaron Rico Virgen spoke to us from inside his van, with his daughters, ages 5 to 18, by his side. The Alameda County resident ran his catering business with his wife, but the pandemic stripped him of his income.

He's been getting by paying just half to three-quarters of his rent.

"Whatever I can, you know, first we had to provide for the kids and the family food and all that," Virgen said.

Today his life is a little less stressful. He's just received a grant from Alameda County to pay his back rent.

"I sleep well last night after they told me they are going to help me with the rent," he said.

Alameda County has $5 million it must distribute before the end of the year for rental assistance, or that money will have to be returned to the federal government.

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Centro Legal La Raza helped him apply.

"The sooner you apply, the better. The more chances, the more likely that we'll be able to get all the documentation and get your grant application funded before the December 31st deadline," said Monique Berlanga of Centrol Legal De La Raza.

Redwood City also a rental assistance program, but there's currently a waiting list.

Christina is putting her hopes on getting a new apartment unit from the San Mateo County Housing Authority. She's also appealing denial of funds by EDD, which said she didn't qualify for pandemic assistance.

"And I'm holding on by my fingers on a cliff. I am not going to give up. I am not going to let them win," she said.

San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa says he's heard too many stories of people at risk of losing their homes, including those who live in senior care homes.

$700,000 is now available from the county to help tenants at senior living facilities.

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"No one deserves to be kicked out during the holiday season and no one deserves a coal in their stocking," Canepa said.

Call your local housing department to see if your city or county has similar rental assistance programs.

Alameda County Rental Assistance (including Oakland and San Leandro) here.

Redwood City Rental Assistance here.

San Mateo County Assistance for seniors facing eviction from senior living facilities is administered by the Institute on Aging. Call the IOA Connect line at 415-750-4111.

San Mateo County Housing Authority here.

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

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