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April 19, 2021

Rental assistance program available to county residents

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—Renters and landlords in Santa Cruz County who have been impacted by the pandemic are eligible for more than $16 million of federal funds to help pay utilities, home energy costs and rent, county spokesperson Jason Hoppin announced Monday.

The funds are allocated based on need.

Renters with household income at or below 80 percent of area median income are eligible, with priority for households at or below 50 percent of area median income.

To qualify, renter households must include at least one individual who qualifies for unemployment or has experienced a reduction in household income or experienced financial hardship due to Covid-19.

Landlords agreeing to participate may receive payment of 80 percent of rental arrears incurred by their program-eligible tenants during the period between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, and must accept the amount as payment in full.

Tenants with landlords declining to participate are still eligible to receive up to 25 percent of back rent owed.

The program will give area tenants impacted by the pandemic another opportunity to catch up on past due rent and utilities. In Watsonville, the city has distributed tens of thousands of dollars to help keep tenants and landlords afloat during the past year.

Despite the recent loosening of economic restrictions as a result of the county’s plummeting case rates, dozens of renters are still struggling to remain current with their rent. Between Feb. 16 and March 2, the city distributed more than $17,000 in rental assistance to 14 families within city limits. Two weeks prior it helped another 12 families.

For the new countywide program, several community organizations are available to help tenants and landlords through the applications process, including Community Bridges, Community Action Board, Families in Transition, California Rural Legal Assistance and United Way 211.

Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action (COPA) and the Conflict Resolution Center will also be providing public outreach and education about the program.

The state funding comes from a $25 billion package under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

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To apply or verify eligibility, visit HousingIsKey.com

For information, call 833-430-2122 between 7am and 7pm daily. Applications and assistance are available in multiple languages.

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