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Emergency rental assistance program starts in Salinas

By Angelica Cabral
The Salinas Californian, March 23, 2021

Applications are set to open Tuesday for those in need of rental assistance.

City staff has already been accepting appointments for those who are wanting help in the application process. The $10 million emergency rental assistance grant was awarded to Salinas by United Way Monterey County.

The program covers up to 80% of someone’s arrears if their landlord agrees to take 20% less than the rent that is owed. The assistance can also partially cover future rent, after the arrears is paid, for up to three months into the future. In total, up to 12 months of assistance is being offered per tenet.

If there is no agreement with the landlord, the city can only provide up to 25% assistance to the tenet.

“We’re really, really hoping that the landlords are agreeable because that’s going to help out,” Community Development Director Megan Hunter said.

Residents are only eligible for the program if they can prove that their need is related to COVID-19, whether it be lost income or employment or that they had significant costs to pay due to the pandemic.

Additionally, residents must fall below the 80% area median income. For single person homes, this means making less than $54,250 and for two person homes, this means making less than $62,000. For the full list of what incomes qualify, you can go to their website . Undocumented residents and residents with or without a lease are eligible.

The program took shape after the county was given $27 million from the U.S. Department Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The Department of Social Services is responsible for administering the money and contracted with United Way to coordinate the program.

Salinas city officials wanted to ensure that they got their fair share of funding, so they applied for the $10 million. After applying, it was a quick turnaround for getting the program up and running. The deadline to apply for the grant money was March 1 and Salinas was formally notified of their acceptance on March 10, though informal discussions began March 5, according to Hunter.

However, the city is slightly behind with the roll-out; they initially hoped to launch on March 15. Hunter noted that this is not United Way's fault, mentioning that she feels they've done an amazing job, but rather due to the timeline of the grant.

The city decided to take on the task rather than leave it to non-profits in part because of its magnitude. Hunter said they were concerned non-profits would have a hard time doing it considering the financial wherewithal.

“We’re very happy to have the funding because we feel it’s quite a bit of onus on the non-profit sector that may or may not have the system set up to quickly deploy,” Hunter said.

For more information, see the release on the city's website. If you think you can benefit from this program, you can contact the Salinas Housing Support Team at 831-758-7901 or RentHelp@ci.salinas.ca.us. You can also call 2-1-1.

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