Rental apartments. Courtesy SDHC

Federal, local and school leaders gathered Monday to encourage low-income families with children in the San Diego Unified School District to apply for help from San Diego’s COVID-19 Housing Stability Assistance Program.

More than $83 million is available through the program to help qualifying households with rent and utility payments, supported by federal funding.

The San Diego Unified School District will distribute roughly 15,000 flyers about the program during its regularly scheduled food distributions to help families in need that have children in the district.

“All students deserve the opportunity to thrive and enjoy the benefits that come with stable housing,” San Diego Unified Board President Richard Barrera said. “We encourage families who are struggling to pay rent to apply for the COVID-19 Housing Stability Assistance Program.”

The San Diego Housing Commission administers the program for the city. The online application is available at covidassistance.sdhc.org.

“Low-income working families across San Diego have been affected disproportionately by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially families of color,” said Mayor Todd Gloria, speaking Monday morning at Clark Middle School in City Heights. “We must use every avenue we have to get the word out that resources are available to help them with past-due rent and provide the stability they desperately need.”

Gloria was joined by Barrera, Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, City Councilman Sean Elo-Rivera, San Diego Housing Commission President and CEO Richard C. Gentry and San Diego Unified School District Board Vice President Sharon Whitehurst-Payne.

“Many families across the nation are experiencing housing insecurity as the pandemic’s economic impacts accelerate,” Vargas said. “I encourage individuals and families to apply for local, state, and federal assistance programs and aid available through the CARES and American Rescue plan.”

More than 8,100 applications for help from the COVID-19 Housing Stability Assistance Program have been submitted since the program began on March 15, of which approximately 19% are from households in Council District 9.

“Housing is a human right,” said Elo-Rivera, who represents District 9. “With crucial support from the federal government and in collaboration with Mayor Gloria, we have created the most significant rental assistance program in our city’s history.

“While we must address the root causes of housing instability, the Housing Stability Assistance Program is addressing the needs of the over 8,000 families that have already applied and, with continued intentional outreach, has the potential of helping thousands more,” Elo-Rivera continued.

Federal and state regulations require prioritizing past-due rent before paying upcoming rent. If funds remain available, the program can help with upcoming rent.

To be eligible for assistance through the program, households must meet the following criteria:

— A San Diego address;

— Household income at or below 80% of San Diego’s Area Median Income – – $92,400 per year for a family of four;

— An obligation to pay rent;

— Not currently receiving any rental subsidies — households that receive rental subsidies can only apply for help with their past-due utilities;

— At least one member of the household experiencing a reduction of income or other financial hardship due to COVID-19; and

— Experienced or at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.

Priority will be given to households with 50% or less of the city’s median income or with at least one member of the household that has been unemployed for 90 days and remains unemployed.

Immigration status does not affect whether a household qualifies for help from the program.

The San Diego City Council has approved a temporary ban on evictions related to COVID-19 which will go into effect on July 1 — unless the state further extends its eviction ban — and will remain in effect until 60 days after the end of the city’s COVID-19 State of Emergency declaration.

–City News Service

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