Emergency Back Rent Help, Avoid Eviction
By Dianne Anderson
When Joey King is not overseeing clean up of tons of trash around Long Beach, he’s out distributing food and pointing people to community popups where they can get some rent relief.
It’s just like work, except it’s unpaid.
“Work is a loose term,” said King, a community volunteer. “We collected 99 tons of trash in one day throughout the city of Long Beach. We were shocked ourselves.”
Despite strong pandemic restrictions this past year, they have managed to cover good ground, along with other Neighborhood Leadership Program ambassadors who have several ongoing events and cleanups.
At any time, they have nine food distributions taking place across the city serving about 3,000 families per week. He sees a lot of volunteerism from the Black community, particularly in North Long Beach, which has a larger Black population.
“It’s all volunteer, we write for grants, we try to pay the bills because the trucks don’t deliver with air. I have to pay my driver,” said King, who is president of Collins Neighborhood Association.
Aside from the food and cleanups, he is also referring people out for rental assistance while it’s available and the program is still accepting applications to help pay past due rent – until the money is gone.
Margaret Madden, neighborhood improvement officer for the city’s Housing and Neighborhood Services Bureau, said the Long Beach Emergency Rental Assistance program is their priority.
She said there is a lot of time and effort making sure that they’re reaching the community.
“Our staff has been outside churches, laundromats, grocery stores promoting the program, and encouraging people who need help to apply,” she said.
They continue to administer state and federal funds to help qualifying residents, who are renters that have suffered COVID economic impact and are unable to pay their past rent. Through an online application portal on their website Longbeach.gov/rentalassistance, both landlords and renters can apply for rental assistance.
Since opening the portal last April, she said they have extended outreach to the hardest hit high rental areas of West, Central and North long Beach. They also continue to host popup events with internet access, which is available in multiple languages to help renters complete applications.
But even before April, she said they had contracts with multiple nonprofits to help with marketing and outreach to make sure they were reaching the community.
“We’re proud that we’re so proactive to do that kind of outreach,” she said.
The portal is still open, and they are paying past rent due. Weekly outdoor popup events are being hosted for residents who need help accessing the online portal, by appointment only.
“Which means no crowds and everyone is wearing a mask, and is especially a help for those who do not have access to computers at home,” Madden said.
Landlords must also submit their documentation. One concern around the process is that it sometimes takes multiple attempts to get landlords and tenants to submit the actual documents needed for their case.
For now, and until they have spent all the state and federal funds, help is available. She said that additional funds could be allocated from other jurisdictions over what they have been granted because they have been diligent in meeting their deadline for the percentages, but that is not guaranteed.
“You’re supposed to spend for certain percentages of the funds by the deadline or you can lose the funds, or if you’re not able to figure out how to do it they take the money back,” she said, but added, “there’s no chance of [it going back]. We’re spending it as quickly as we can for qualified applicants”
Most importantly, she said that renters need to know for emergency rental assistance, they must respond promptly to any emails, calls, or texts regarding follow-up on their case or incomplete documents.
“We’re required by our state and federal funding sources to determine whether or not the household is eligible.”
Landlords and tenants can still apply for assistance, and those in arrears or past rent owed are prioritized.
She said that landlords are desperate for their tenants to follow up so they can get paid and continue paying on their mortgages. Applicants must provide income documentation, a signed rental agreement, and the renters have to turn in that information to qualify for help.
“They have to provide income documentation, and proof of COVID- related economic impact, like a layoff notice,” she said. “We can’t payout on the claim on the request unless they have a qualified case.”
For anyone needing help, see www,longbeach.gov/rentalassistance or call the support line at 833.358.5372.