State officials urged residents across the state Monday to seek COVID-19 rent relief funding as the state's eviction moratorium ended this week.
The moratorium, which ended Thursday, prevented property owners and landlords from evicting tenants who have lost income due to the pandemic and subsequently missed rent payments, provided that tenants pay a quarter of their rent each month.
With the deadline in mind, state Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramirez urged renters to take advantage of the more than $7 billion the state has made available for rent and utility payment assistance.
"Applying for rental assistance is the best way to protect yourself against being evicted," Castro Ramirez said during a briefing at Shelter Inc. in Concord, an organization seeking to prevent homelessness.
In addition to the state's moratorium ending, some local eviction moratoria were also set to end Thursday, including Contra Costa County's.
According to Castro Ramirez, roughly 4,800 Contra Costa County residents have sought rent relief funding totaling roughly $55 million.
Statewide, $1.69 billion in funding has been dispersed in support of households who are behind on their rent or utility payments, according to state officials.
State legislators have previously extended the moratorium multiple times, but were unable to do so past Sept. 30 before the state's legislative session ended on Sept. 10.
Part of the reasoning behind that decision was the payment assistance that state and local jurisdictions are dispersing.
In July, state legislators approved the use of $5.2 billion in federal pandemic relief funds for rent relief payments and an additional $2 billion for households behind on their utility payments.
Regardless, some state officials and tenants' rights advocates have warned that the state will inevitably cross over an "eviction cliff" due to the sheer number of residents across the state who faced difficulty paying their bills during the pandemic.
Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) called on local governments earlier this month to do everything in their power to prevent renters from losing their homes and facing the eviction lawsuit process on their own.
Chiu, who helped author the previous extensions of the eviction moratorium, said he had initially hoped that the state would extend it well into 2022.
"Things are not going to end on Sept. 30 -- in fact, things could get much worse," Chiu said in a virtual discussion with tenants' rights activists on Sept. 17. "So we really need to do everything we can to make sure that California does not see an eviction tsunami that we've all been worried about."
Chiu added that while eviction proceedings will be allowed to begin starting Friday, tenants who apply for relief funding by March 31, 2022, could have their proceedings paused to allow for the funds to disperse.
Both landlords and renters can apply directly to the state's rent relief program, which considers applicants regardless of their immigration status. Relief funds are then paid directly to the person or organization to whom the outstanding payment is owed.
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the entirety of the funds have been allocated, according to the state.
The rent and utility relief application can be found at housing.ca.gov.