As April 1 evictions loom, only 44% of Mission rent relief claims have been paid

A new report reveals that half of the thousands of rent relief requests submitted by San Francisco and Mission residents have yet to even be reviewed.

The lag is particularly concerning because the state’s eviction protections expire next week — April 1 — meaning tenants with remaining Covid-19 rent debt can be evicted for nonpayment. In response, the city’s local rent relief program will reopen on April 1, the oversight board’s budget and finance committee announced Wednesday. But we don’t know how quickly he can come to the rescue.

“It’s crucial that we get our own agenda back on track,” said Brian Cheu of the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development. “These will help people who may be at risk for any unpaid rent before April 1.”

So far, about 44% of the 1,400 applications for 94110, or the Home Mission, have been paid (of which 14% had reapplied after paying for more money). Six percent are awaiting payment, and 50% are still “under review”. A request was denied.

The Policy Link report breaks down the status of rent relief requests by city, county and zip code. The data comes from the California Department of Housing and Community Development, which is responsible for processing and disbursing rent relief to residents.

Policy Link is an equity-focused racial research institute. The report shows that 37% of the 425,032 claims made in San Francisco have been paid. About six percent are awaiting disbursement and 56 percent of applications are awaiting review. About 4,500 requests, or 1%, were refused.

About $101 million was paid out to applicants in San Francisco, just over a third of the $289 million requested, according to Policy Link.

Even with the relaunch of the local rent relief program, which the city quietly shut down last fall, supervisors and advocates have urged San Franciscans to approach the state before the program closes on March 31. to reduce costs for the city.

“The deadline is upon us. We know that even the $62 million is not enough to meet the needs” and “there is a huge financial benefit to the state paying them,” supervisor Dean Preston said. during Wednesday’s budget meeting.” The more people we can get to apply for the [state program] before March 31, the better.

Sharon Herrera, who leads the San Francisco community group’s Latino task force housing team, said her group alone has helped submit about 900 requests for rent relief from Mission residents, Excelsior and Bayview. So far, about 400 have been approved, she said, raising concerns among tenants who fear eviction on April 1.

Already, an Excelsior tenant has narrowly escaped eviction proceedings twice this month, Herrera said. The resident racked up $12,000 in Covid-19 debt in 2020, but then got a job and has been paying rent on time ever since. Although he applied for funds and his application is pending, his landlord sent him an eviction notice and he was placed on the sheriff’s eviction list. (Only the sheriff can enforce evictions.) Herrera and the Latino Task Force advocated for the tenant and reminded the sheriff that the protections were still in place until April 1; the sheriff’s office agreed to relent, but added they could not do the same next month.

“He’s trying to see his options and what he can do,” Herrera said. “Even in San Francisco, once you have an eviction case, it becomes increasingly difficult for the individual to find housing.”

The State Department prioritizes certain applications based on the likelihood of deportation, the amount they earn, and the date of submission. It also takes time to verify applications, and sometimes applicants or landlords can be slow to respond, the department said in response to questions from Mission Local.

Statewide eviction protections technically ended Oct. 1, but state law said landlords couldn’t evict tenants with unpaid debts if they applied for the relief. state rents through March 31, 2022. If debt remains after that, tenants can be legally evicted. .

According to Maika Pinkston, executive director of local nonprofit From the Heart that works in Bayview, many residents are waiting for rent and utility relief payments, which the state has also promised to reimburse.

Claims processing issues span the state: A National Equity Atlas, a data tool developed by Policy Link and the USC Equity Research Institute, released a report earlier this month that suggests only 16% of the 490,000 Californis who applied for rent relief physically received payments. The California Department of Housing and Community Development, which administers the state’s rent relief program, denied this. The state’s own scorecard says it paid out about 44% of households to about $2.4 billion in funds.

The State Department did not directly respond to inquiries from Mission Local about the discrepancy. A spokesperson provided a statement citing that 215,000 households received approximately $2.47 billion in funds. On average, each household receives $11,000 per household.

“As such, CA COVID-19 Rent Relief has been able to expedite payments and ensure that all eligible support requests initiated on or before March 31 will be paid,” the statement continued.

In addition to treatment issues, language and disability barriers persist. As Mission Local reported last fall, advocacy group Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus sued the state housing department for failing to provide translated rent relief documents correctly, despite the fact that many immigrants, both tenants and owners, want to use it.

For example, tenants always receive emails from landlords or state liaisons in English, even though it is not their native language. This delays tenants’ demand, and therefore their money, said Niketa Kumar, spokesperson for the AAAJ and the Asian Law Caucus.

And the breakdown in communication can continue as evictions take place. Just last month, a Filipino tenant in San Francisco received instructions on eviction protections, but the translation sounded like how to “help with eviction,” causing confusion and concern, Kumar said.

“As the deadline draws near, persistent language barriers underscore the real need to expand the program and address these issues,” Kumar said.

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