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Housing and Homelessness

Renters Are Struggling With California's COVID-19 Relief Application. But Help Is Available

A group of women gathered around a table under a canopy. The table has a black tablecloth. Two of the women work at laptops, others wearing masks. Other women walk by in the background. They are sitting in chairs on grass, with a residential neighborhood behind.
People gather to get help applying for COVID-19 rent relief checks on Saturday, March 5, in Jim Gilliam Park.
(Phoenix Tso
LAist )
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March 31 is the deadline to apply for California's COVID-19 rent relief program, "Housing Is Key." Eligible renters can get help with payments dating back to April 2020 — and future payments, too.

But some Los Angeles renters are having trouble filling out the application.

Oscar Avena traveled all the way from East L.A. to Baldwin Village to help his mother Carmen apply for rent relief. Carmen is behind on rent because of issues with disability and unemployment benefits. Oscar said she's stressed out.

"There's always a fear of just that three-day notice of just packing up your stuff, and you got to go once you get that notice of eviction," Oscar said.

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Oscar spoke to LAist over the weekend from Jim Gilliam Park, where volunteers with the Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles were helping to take people through the online application. Jenn Laurent, founder of the nonprofit LA Legal Assistant, invited them to come help.

"We've had a couple of elders who just have the basic lifeline phone service, cellphone service, so they don't even have a way to access the internet," Laurent said.

Other people, including Oscar and Carmen Avena, had questions about how the program works and how to fill out the form.

There have been studies showing that most people who've applied have not received any of California's COVID-19 rent relief money.

Oscar said that after talking to a volunteer, he can help his mother finish applying at home.

"We just need a couple more documents, and we'll submit our application, but she showed us how we could do it," he said.

Lavina Newell is a renter in the area who came to learn more about the program.

"I'm a single parent, and being on disability and stuff like that, it's been real hard — you know what I'm saying — because you have to pay all the bills, and all those things — pay for food, and different things like that," Newell said.

For more information on California's COVID-19 rent relief program, visit If you need help filling out the form, you can contact Jenn Laurent, organizer of the rent relief event, on Instagram @LALegalAssistant.

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