The city of Fresno has yet to distribute millions of dollars in rent relief and the Fresnoland Lab at The Fresno Bee wants to hear from tenants who have been affected as a result of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program rollout.

In March, the city re-launched their Emergency Rental Assistance Program with the $35 million the city received from state and federal funds. A previous program distributed about $5 million to renters in need in 2020.

Of the $35 million allocated to the ERAP, only about $4.3 million had been distributed to renters and landlords as of July 19, according to a report from the city.

An additional $1.5 million of the $35 million has been distributed to partner programs that intend to increase housing stability and prevent unlawful evictions.

The city still had roughly $29.2 million to distribute as of July 19. Only 1,173 applicants of the more than 8,600 people who have applied to the ERAP in Fresno were given funds as of July 19, according to a report from the city of Fresno.

Guidelines change to distribute funds more quickly. Is it fast enough?

In Fresno and across the country, there has been difficulty in distributing the funds despite the need for rent relief during the pandemic.

The city of Fresno eliminated barriers to the program as federal guidelines loosened, in hopes of getting the money out faster. According to Sontaya Rose, the communications director for the city of Fresno, the changes include the following:

  • Those who show proof of participation in certain state or federal assistance programs (CalFresh, CalWORKS, WIC, SNAP, etc.) do not need to provide any other income documents
  • Those not participating in the programs listed above need to show only one proof of income verification document instead of three.
  • Applicants who previously received assistance and are seeking additional ERAP funds are only required to go back to their application and check the box attesting that their housing situation has not changed.
  • Applicants who previously received 80% of their total rental debt are automatically receiving their 20% top off, equaling 100% of rental debt.
  • The city is now paying prospective rent through Sept. 30, for qualified applicants.
  • The city is now paying utility debt.
  • The city has created an “ERAP Express Line” for people whose eviction is imminent and are referred to the city by the Superior Court.

Now, tenants and landlords can apply to receive 100% of back rent and utility debt. Whereas, when the program first launched, landlords could only receive 80% owed to them and if they refused to participate, tenants would be directly given 25% of what they owed.

Sept. 30 is the current end date for the state’s eviction moratorium — which bans evictions for nonpayment of rent if a tenant pays at least 25% of their rent and shows proof that they’ve been financially affected by COVID-19. However, the national eviction moratorium was extended a few days beyond that, to Oct. 3, for areas with substantial or high transmission rates.

According to Rose, the city’s program “should allow us to continue to provide rental assistance and housing stability services past September 30.” The city denied several requests for an interview about the program.

What has your experience been with ERAP?

The Fresno Bee wants to know if the changes have been effective and how the rollout of the ERAP has impacted tenants.

Have you applied? Did you receive money or were you denied? Did your landlord participate in the program? How has the ERAP helped or not helped you? Do you think completing the process is easy? Do you have questions about the updated guidelines?

Fresnoland at The Fresno Bee is working on answering your questions and providing the latest. But we also want to hear from you.

Fill out the form here or below to share your experience with the Emergency Rental Assistance Program as a renter. Landlords can fill out there experience here.

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Cassandra is a housing and engagement reporter with Fresnoland.