California could extend pandemic protections for tenants three more months to allow time to finish sending out rent relief payments.
Assembly Bill 2179 would move the date landlords can begin to evict tenants from April 1 to July 1, providing an application to a rent-relief program is submitted by a tenant by March 31, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The proposed legislation comes a week before the state’s eviction moratorium would expire.
“We need to protect eligible renters who have applied for relief funds, but haven’t received them yet, or who will apply before the March 31 deadline,” Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said in a statement. “We made a commitment to those who are in line and they shouldn’t be harmed because of how long the process is taking.”
The law wouldn’t change the March 31 deadline to apply for rental assistance, but would prevent the evictions of those still in the queue who have not yet received the funds, either on the state or local level.
Advocates have voiced concern that thousands of Californians could face eviction even though they had pending applications. The new bill would trump local eviction moratoriums and set up uniform rules for when evictions can start. It is slated to be heard in a legislative committee on Monday.
The California Apartment Association praised its effort to maintain a consistent standard for eviction protections while preventing a hodgepodge of local rules for tenants, landlords and courts. In a statement, it said it hopes the state will have worked through all its pending rent relief by June 30, making AB 2179 the final extension of the eviction moratorium.
The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, however, called for the state to extend the deadline for when households can apply for assistance, and let local jurisdictions implement their own protections for renters. Short of that, it said, would turn the rent relief program “into a landlord bailout that results in thousands of families on the streets.”
Since the dawn of the pandemic in 2020, lawmakers have passed laws to protect renters against eviction if they have faced pandemic-related hardship. Last year, the state received $5.2 billion in federal funds for a rent relief program to help both renters and landlords.
The state set up its own relief program to dole out half that amount. The other $2.6 billion went to local governments that set up their own programs. The relief aimed to help low-income residents at greatest risk of eviction, paying up to 100 percent of rent and utility bills.
The state-run program struggled to keep up with demand. Of the 489,879 households that have applied for the aid, 214,247 have been served, according to a state data tracker. The average assistance is $11,488.
The state has paid out $2.46 billion in relief and requested in November another $1.9 billion from the federal government, which sent another $200 million to California. More federal assistance is expected.
[Los Angeles Times] – Dana Bartholomew