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October 1, 2020

Council approves $100K for emergency rental assistance

WATSONVILLE—Watsonville renters struggling to keep up with their monthly payments because of the Covid-19 pandemic could soon receive some relief.

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The Watsonville City Council at its Tuesday meeting approved the use of $100,000 from its general fund to establish an Emergency Rental Assistance Program for residents impacted by the novel coronavirus.

Residential tenants that have fallen behind on their rent because they contracted Covid-19, are caring for a sick family member or have been laid off because of the pandemic can apply for the program. Tenants that have had to stay home to care for their child or a family member that is deemed high-risk of severe illness from Covid-19 also qualify.

Watsonville Housing Manager Carlos Landaverry said the City can help roughly 60-70 families with rent checks that max out at $1,500.

The program will follow the model used in the City’s initial $100,000 Emergency Rental Assistance Program coordinated by the Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County. That program, passed in April and made possible by the City’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, helped 66 families with rent checks averaging $1,288.

The City is handling the updated program in-house so that it does not need to pay administrative fees to another agency—it paid CAB roughly $15,000 to run the first program.

It passed unanimously.

The assistance was made possible by a $636,063 allocation of federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

All seven council members asked the City to find other funds to possibly extend and expand the program.

City Manager Matt Huffaker said it is unclear if or when the City might receive additional funding from the state or federal government that might bolster its response to the pandemic.

Landaverry said that the City could use its incoming CDBG funding—federal dollars that can be used to fight blight, poverty and homelessness—to buoy more struggling Watsonville residents as it did in the first round of rental assistance. He, however, said it is unclear how much CDBG funding the City would receive in the coming months.

Congressman Jimmy Panetta late Tuesday announced the federal government would distribute nearly $6 million in CDBG funding to communities on the Central Coast. That cash comes from CARES Act and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Watsonville will receive $506,260, according to Panetta’s office. That is in addition to the City’s usual CDBG funding, which Landaverry has said will be roughly north of $600,000.

The City will require tenants to provide proof of hardship and it will also gather data on the demographics of recipients, a decision City Councilwoman Trina Coffman-Gomez applauded. Coffman-Gomez said that data will give the City a better understanding of the communities and industries that are struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic, and allow it to focus its efforts and funds in the right sectors.

“I think we’re going to see people reaching out [for help] that never have,” she said.

Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez
Managing Editor Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor for five years before entering his current role in 2019. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus, he covers the city, business, housing, entertainment and more.

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