Costa Mesa Approves Rental Assistance Program for Struggling Residents

October 14, 2020 Updated: October 14, 2020

Costa Mesa City Council members voted unanimously to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars to residents of the California city who are struggling to pay their rent amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The city’s rental assistance program guidelines were formalized on Oct. 6 after a 6-0 Council vote. Residents that are experiencing a loss of income directly related to COVID-19 will be eligible to receive either $6,000 per household or a maximum of three months of rent, whichever is less.

The programs will use federal relief funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, according to a Costa Mesa Housing Authority agenda report. The city was notified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in April that it would receive $668,658 from the first round of funds as part of a Community Development Block Grant.

The guidelines specify that residents must have incomes lower than 80 percent of the area’s median income to qualify for the program, and must have been on time with their rent payments prior to March 31. According to the state, a family of four in Orange County would need to make less than $102,450 annually to qualify.

The program will grant money to two nonprofit organizations, Serving People in Need Inc. (SPIN) and Mercy House Living Centers, to administer disbursement. The nonprofits will then distribute the funds to the applicants.

Councilmembers approved granting SPIN $207,000 and Mercy House Living Centers $180,321, according to the report. SPIN will be designated to help rental assistance to households with children, while Mercy House will assist individuals facing the prospect of homelessness.

Any remaining funds from the city’s grant, which it estimates to be around $181,000, will be considered as part of a comprehensive plan that could include a second round of grants for residents, according to the report.

Jean Wegener, CEO of SPIN, told The Epoch Times that the nonprofit is still waiting on a contract from the city to be reworked before disbursing the funds. She said it will be difficult to estimate exactly how many families the organization will be able to help until it receives the revision.

“We applied—the council approved it—but then they have to give us a contract, and that has to go through legal and then to the city. So we’re hoping to have the new contract at the end of the week,” Wegener said.

“I projected a concept of how many [families] we would help, but we just had a conference call yesterday where the contract is being redone. And some of the categories are being redone, as well as the accounting aspects of it. … As of right now, everything is up in the air.”

Wegener said that ever since SPIN had been approved to receive the $207,000 grant from the city, her group had been inundated with calls from residents needing help—including one request from a landlord who asked for assistance for the renters of his 1,400 units that were struggling to pay rent.

Costa Mesa residents who have already received some type of rental assistance in the past will not be qualified to receive this grant.

Other Orange County cities, including Buena Park and Santa Ana, have also opted for similar rental assistance programs during the last few months.

On Oct. 2, the city of Irvine closed out a second round of rental assistance using $2 million from its CARES Act funds. While the initial round in June resulted in 1,767 applications approved for the $1,000 maximum one-time grants, the latest allotment offered assistance to only 200 to 250 applicants, according to the city’s website.