San Diego Housing Commission

Proposal to Use Quarter of San Diego's CARES Act Funds on Rent Assitance Presented to Council

If the proposal passes, It could still take weeks for the program to be set up and months for funds to be allocated

The San Diego City Council was scheduled to hear a proposal Tuesday to allocate $61.9 million of the city's $248.5 million federal CARES Act funding towards an emergency rental assistance program amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a big number. It’s a necessary number because we know the consequence of not acting is going to be even more expensive to be able to combat additional homelessness response and solutions on the back end,” Council Member Chris Ward said at a press conference ahead of the council meeting where his proposal would be presented.

The proposal was already backed by Council Member Monica Montgomery and the San Diego Housing Commission, the latter of which would be in charge allocating up to $4,000 to landlords on behalf of renters who have been unable to make payments due to COVID-19. Ward estimates that the program could benefit about 15,000 households.

The SDHC already has programs in place to help their members affected by COVID-19 but the proposal brought forth by Ward would allow COVID-affected families to receive funding who do not meet their current funding criteria, which typically requires an individual or household to be receiving federal housing assistance.

That doesn't usually include members of the San Diego Hotel Workers Union, according to their President Brigette Browning. The Unite Here Local 30 members can typically manage paycheck-to-paycheck but since the start of the pandemic, thousands of jobs have been lost, she said.

“In the blink of an eye, we’ve literally lost 6,000 jobs. And it's not clear when they're coming back," Browning said. "So our members are facing a tsunami of not knowing if they're going to have a place to work, not knowing if they're going to be able to keep their health insurance and not knowing if they’re going to have a place to live.”

Browning said Ward's proposal would help her members with the latter.

“We really urge the council to give us some certainty to know that at least were going to have our homes while we’re waiting for the industry to come back," she said.

If the council approves the Emergency Rental Assistance Program proposal on Tuesday, it would direct the SDHC to begin developing the program and move the funding proposal to be considered through the city's budget process on June 9.

It could still take weeks for the program to be set up and for applications to be approved, SDHC President and CEO Rick Gentry said. It may not be until August that renters and landlords would start seeing funding relief.

Gentry said the proposal was still a step in the right direction because it would set the groundwork for a program that could be used if any other rent relief funds were granted to the city in the future.

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