Nearly $35 million will be distributed to renters and landlords across the city of Fresno who faced financial hardship and were unable to pay rent due to coronavirus, Mayor Jerry Dyer announced Monday.
Applications for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program are open.
“The purpose of this program, quite frankly, is to make sure our most-vulnerable residents can keep roofs over their heads,” Dyer said at a news conference.
Dyer said while the program helps renters, it will also ensure that “landlords and property owners get paid so that they can continue to provide much-needed affordable housing to the residents of Fresno.”
The nearly $35 million program is a leap from the more than nearly $8 million the city distributed earlier in the pandemic.
The new program is funded by federal and state grants, Dyer said. About $15.8 million was received from the federal government and $19.1 million came through a California grant. All of the money must be used by Sept. 30.
In accordance with state guidelines, the city will pay landlords up to 80% of what is due them, with the landlord writing off the remaining 20%.
However, if a landlord does not accept, the city will then work directly with tenants and offer them 25% of what they owe their landlord since April 1, 2021, and the tenant will be exempt from evictions due to nonpayment until the eviction moratorium ends on June 1.
“It would be my recommendation to encourage landlords to accept that 80%,” Dyer said.
The city can also proactively help pay future rent through the program; however, back rent will be the first priority, according to Dyer.
If any funds are left over, Dyer said the city will then begin paying water and electricity debts.
Dyer said renters accumulated more than $6 million in water debt and more than $48 million in PG&E utility debt, as of Monday.
“We know that our community is hurting; it’s been a very very tough year,” Fresno City Council President Luis Chavez said. “But we’re getting through it; there’s light at the end of the tunnel. These resources are going to really help our community get back on its feet.”
Who qualifies for rent assistance?
Renters who make at or below 80% of the area median income and have lost income due to coronavirus will qualify for the rental assistance program, Dyer said. Citizenship status is not a requirement for the program, according to Chavez.
“A family of four that makes less than $50,350, they are eligible to apply,” Dyer said. “A single person would have to make an income of $39,150 or less in order to apply; a family of two: $44,750 or less.”
However, due to the expected high demand, the city said it will prioritize those who make 50% or less of the median area income.
The city partnered with Centro La Familia Advocacy Services, Education Leadership Foundation, Fresno Center, Reading and Beyond, the Jakara Movement and the West Fresno Family Resource Center. Dyer said the six organizations will assist tenants in filling out the correct paperwork so that they receive the correct allocation of rent relief.
Dyer said the city will also contact property owners and landlords through the Rental Inspection Registry.
“There’s a misconception that if you’re a landlord, you’re somehow a very wealthy person,” Chavez said. “That’s just not the case. Over 85% in the city of Fresno were called small mom and pop operators, and we know they have been hurting, too.”
How to sign up for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program
Questions about the program can also be emailed to email@example.com.