Monterey Bay Rental Assistance During COVID-19
Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP) recently issued a report on “Monterey Bay Rental Assistance During COVID-19: Lessons Learned, Best Practices, and Paths to Improvement,” the result of ongoing meetings and a survey of stakeholders across the Monterey Bay region.
The report looks at the effectiveness of rental relief distribution efforts — what went right, where there’s room for improvement, what local partners can do to prepare for future efforts, and what can be done to avoid a wave of future pandemic-related evictions.
Rental Assistance during COVID-19
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This report summarizes the findings from regularly held meetings since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, a learning session held with rental assistance stakeholders from across the Monterey Bay Region, and an accompanying stakeholder survey.
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A year into the pandemic, after all the rental assistance that has been given out, and the endless hours that have gone into outreach to inform tenants and give them aid, questions still loom large. Among the most significant: How many renters are on the financial brink because of COVID-19? How many have already been evicted? How many more are on the brink of eviction and could lose the roof over their head in the months to come? How can the lessons of the past year be used to make future funding distribution more efficient and effective?
These questions aren’t the kind that can be answered in a vacuum, and they’re at the heart of what MBEP does: Connecting stakeholders across the region, identifying accurate data, and sharing best practices to inform the best path forward for regional well-being. MBEP’s report findings were produced from a recent Rental Assistance Learning Session, co-hosted by the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP) Housing Team and Community Organized for Relational Power in Action (COPA).
The goal of rental relief distribution doesn’t seem so complicated: Keep people housed when pandemic-related financial pressures on households — from reduced work hours, job losses, or medical bills — have left many renters incredibly vulnerable.
But getting resources into the right hands quickly, efficiently and accurately has proven to be no simple task. The numbers behind local rental assistance disbursement in recent months show the complexity:
- More than $10.8 million in pandemic-related emergency rental assistance has already been dispersed across the tri-county region.
- Facilitating that distribution has been a network of more than a dozen providers ranging from nonprofits to city governments.
- As of Jan. 8, those providers across Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties managed to move mountains, getting the word out and connecting emergency relief funds into the hands of just under 4,000 households, averaging $2,534 per household.
- And while 50 percent of rental assistance funding came from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the other $5 million came from a combination of seven other sources from federal, state and local sources.
Each allotment of rental relief funds — whether from the CARES Act, Federal Emergency Management Agency, community impact grants, Community Development Block Grant Funds or elsewhere — came with its own set of stipulations, regulations and red tape. Above all, to satisfy the intent — helping renters meet their rent obligation — the funds had to get out into the community as fast as possible. All the while, the city employees and nonprofit staffers walked a tightrope of COVID precautions and public contact, paperwork, lean staffing conditions and the urgency to complete a job that didn’t even exist — and no one could have imagined — a year ago.
The fact that so many people were able to receive financial assistance so quickly, and that municipalities were able to distribute all of their CARES Act funding by year’s-end, as stipulated, are successes worth noting.
— Emily Ham, MBEP Housing Associate
“The front line workers who spent many, many hours to make this happen are driven by the hope of preventing what the report describes as a potential ‘eviction cliff’ as the cumulative result of income loss and other pandemic-related economic stressors, and lapsing eviction moratoriums come home to roost. The most recent moratorium issued by the state of California is currently set to expire at the end of June 2021.”
“It’s virtually impossible to build a system from scratch in a matter of months and have everything go flawlessly,” continued Ham. MBEP brought together those involved in relief distribution to share their experiences and learnings to create a blueprint for future efforts. “This report will help answer questions and act as a roadmap for how we’re going to do this going forward.”
In late January, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation to extend the state’s eviction moratorium through June 30. SB 91, coupled with a state Rental Assistance Program to allocate $2.6 billion in federal rental assistance dollars to struggling tenants and small property owners, will go far to protect struggling tenants and small property owners.
The application period is expected to open later this month for those funds, which will bring their own requirements and eligibility. MBEP’s report findings will help inform local partners as to how best to distribute them.
The report also identifies a clear need for better local data on rentals and evictions. These numbers are vitally important. “Without more accurate and up-to-date information, who can say how much emergency assistance is needed, or if some of those most at risk are missing out on the resources to keep them afloat?” said Ham.
But few cities — and none in the Monterey Bay region — have rental registries or other tools that provide accurate snapshots of local rent conditions and eviction proceedings, noted Ham.
The threat of an eviction cliff was this ominous presence over so many of our residents this entire year, and it continues to be a looming threat when the state’s (extended) eviction moratorium expires at the end of June.
— Emily Ham, MBEP Housing Associate
“We need a better way to quantify the need, and track who needs it. There’s just no good data on the local and regional level, and that’s a big missing piece of the puzzle.”
Monterey Bay rental assistance during COVID-19This report summarizes the findings from regularly held meetings since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, a learning session held with rental assistance stakeholders from across the Monterey Bay Region, and an accompanying stakeholder survey.