The Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the second round of Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) on Nov. 2, increasing available funds by over $82 million to assist those who were unable to pay rent and utilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal funding will be administered by the state’s department of Housing and Community Development.
“Anyone who makes less than 80 percent of the county median household income or has a COVID-19 hardship is eligible to apply,” Supervisor Katrina Foley said during a Nov. 2 board meeting. “We’re here to help.”
She said if a tenant applies for rent relief prior to, or 15 days after receiving an eviction notice, the application can pause the eviction. Landlords can apply as well.
Orange County initially received about $52 million in ERA funding. An additional 30 million was added as a “High-Need” allocation.
High-Need allocation defines eligible grantees as “very low-income renter households” who pay more than 50 percent of their income on rent, or those “living in substandard or overcrowded conditions.”
Or those who have had a change in employment since February 2020.
Earlier this year, lawmakers enacted AB 832, which included several changes to the California COVID-19 Rent Relief program. Besides extending eviction protections for all California tenants, it allowed grantees to select an administrative option to administer the ERA funds.
Grantees could choose one of two options.
“Option A” would grant state administration, which would give a community development financial institution the access to manage federal and state allocations through a centralized state program on behalf of the city or county.
“Option B” would grant self-administration, where a jurisdiction would receive a state block grant allocation and self-administer both a federal allocation and the state block grant local program.
The Office of Care Coordination recommended option “A” for the county.
“Upstreaming the County’s ERA [second round] funds provides the smoothest path for Orange County tenants to continue to access this resource,” Douglas Becht, acting director of the Office of Care Coordination, told The Epoch Times in an email.
Becht said Orange County and the state have communicated publicly since May 2021. The joint messaging informs tenants and landlords that the county’s application window is closed, and assistance is available through the state’s COVID-19 Rent Relief program.
“Additionally, it prevents the confusion that would be created if the county were to operate an ERA program alongside the state’s,” Brecht said. “Finally, it helps ensure that the state’s program has the funding to support the over 19,000 applications it has already received from Orange County residents.”
Pat Davis, a resident of Anaheim, emailed the board of supervisors addressing the acceptance and adoption of $82 million dollars of federal emergency rental assistance.
Davis asked the supervisors how they will use the money to respond to current and future online resources to support housing bills and why they haven’t adopted a countywide strategy for motel and commercial building conversions.
“Your approach to truly address … low and very low-income level needs has been grossly missing,” Davis said in an email to the board of supervisors. “Providing housing stability has many forms and options. Your community members are in dire need of help pre and post COVID. Increase your efforts and maximize the returns. Housing saves lives.”
The county will make the ERA funds available to Orange County tenants through the California COVID-19 Rent Relief program, according to the county.
Through public advertising, the county and state administration of the funds aims to prevent duplication of benefits and/or fraudulent activity.
Additionally, it prevents the confusion that is created when two similar programs, operated by separate entities, are operating concurrently, according to the agenda state report.
Orange County is one of eight counties that are recommending a change in how their ERA programs run.
Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties have been using “Option A” since the program’s launch after the Biden administration enacted the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 earlier this year.
Orange County residents who qualify for the ERA program can apply for rent relief through housingiskey.com.
The ERA funds are scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, 2025.