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Housing and Homelessness

Gov. Newsom Proposes $2.7B For Californians Still Waiting For Rent Relief

A "for lease" sign is seen hanging outside an apartment building in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.
A "for lease" sign outside an apartment building in Highland Park.
(David Wagner
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Gov. Gavin Newsom’s updated budget plan projects a record $97.5 billion surplus, and on Friday he said he wants to put a chunk of that windfall toward rent relief.

California has already directed more than $5 billion in federal funding toward paying off debts accrued by low-income renters during the pandemic. Now, Newsom’s budget proposes another $2.7 billion in state funding to help applicants still waiting to get paid.

“That program has billions and billions of dollars of requests that cannot be met with federal money,” Newsom said at a press conference where he unveiled his revised annual budget plan.

“We're looking to use a portion of our surplus to provide an additional $2.7 billion for an $8.1 billion total program to address the rental anxieties that so many Californians face,” he said.

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So far, the state has delivered more than $3.2 billion in rent relief, with more than half of that funding going toward tenants and landlords in L.A. County alone. More funding has been distributed by local rent relief efforts in various cities and counties across the state.

But many applicants are still waiting for approval and payment. Madeline Howard, a senior attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said the dollar amount may be new, but Newsom’s overall plan isn’t — because state lawmakers already committed to paying those applicants.

“It really doesn't change the picture at all,” she said. “People are still going to be waiting many months for their application to be processed. And the state is not indicating that they're going to change their policy of refusing to pay people any rent that accrued past March.”

California stopped accepting rent relief applications after March, and has denied any requests for help paying rent for April and beyond. Howard is part of a lawsuit targeting the state for denying rent relief past that point.

A spokesperson for California’s housing department confirmed the $2.7 billion influx will only be used to help existing applicants who got their requests in before the March 31 deadline.

Javier Beltran, deputy director of the L.A.-based Housing Rights Center, said the pandemic may be waning from its peak, but many households have not fully recovered economically.

“If they can't pay April, May or June, then their landlord still can still file an eviction and proceed with an eviction even though they still have a pending rent relief application,” Beltran said.

Elba Cuevas Varelas, a tenant and organizer with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, said she first applied for rent relief in September of last year, but wasn’t approved until April.

Varelas said she hopes Newsom’s proposal will help speed up processing for all the applicants who are still stuck in limbo.

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“It put a lot of pressure on me,” she said about the long wait. “I felt depressed. I was like, I don’t know what’s going to happen if they don’t get the money.”

What questions do you have about housing in Southern California?

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