About $66 Million in Federal Relief Money Coming for Orange County Renters

January 31, 2021 Updated: January 31, 2021

Orange County will begin distributing nearly $66 million in federal funding to help renters who suffered financial setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The emergency rental assistance (ERA) program, which begins locally Feb. 1, is part of a $25 billion federal rescue package to help those who’ve fallen behind on rent and utility payments.

“The ERA Program must largely be used for direct financial assistance, including rent, rental arrears and utilities and home energy costs,” the county says on its website.

Not all Orange County residents are eligible for the program; Irvine, Anaheim, and Santa Ana received direct allocations from the U.S. Department of Treasury and will be implementing their own plans.

To meet ERA assistance criteria, households must include at least one person who qualified for unemployment, experienced a reduction in income, incurred significant costs, or suffered other financial hardship due to the pandemic.

They must also demonstrate a risk of becoming homeless or experiencing housing instability, and have a household income that’s 80 percent or below the area median income. For a family of four, an eligible household income would be below $102,450. A person living alone would need to make less than $71,750 to qualify.

Eligible renters can receive up to $10,000 to put toward rent, rent arrears, or unpaid utility bills related to COVID-19.

The money will be of great help to struggling renters, said an Orange County supervisor.

“Orange County renters have had to bear an incredible burden throughout this pandemic,” Supervisor Andrew Do said when announcing the program Jan. 29. “Our rental assistance will help keep our most vulnerable community members from losing their home and a sense of security in the midst of this ongoing crisis.”

Meantime, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Jan. 29 signed legislation to extend California’s eviction moratorium through June 30.

“Once again, California is leading the way by enacting the strongest eviction protections in the nation, which will provide relief for millions of Californians dealing with financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19,” Newsom said in a press release.

“This law not only provides greatly needed support for tenants, but also provides relief to small property owners in need of assistance to pay for mortgages, thanks to $2.6 billion in federal stimulus funding.”

The extension prolongs an earlier eviction moratorium, which was set to expire Feb. 1.

The latest Orange County financial relief package doesn’t apply to homeowners, and doesn’t offer relief for mortgage arrears.

The county will begin accepting applications for the program Feb. 1 at 8 a.m.

—With a file from City News Service

Follow Michelle on Twitter: @EpochMichelle