SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Lawmakers across the state are looking for ways to help renters and homeowners, as California's eviction moratorium is set to expire on January 31.
"It's really scary. It's overwhelming," says renter Patricia Mendoza, who has been out of work since April.
"It's taken a toll on my health," she adds. "It's nerve racking."
Under AB 3088, the current law says people impacted by the coronavirus pandemic cannot be evicted from their homes or property as long as they can pay 25% of their rent or mortgage. But those protections expire soon.
People would not be evicted because of any rent they missed while the moratorium was in place. But they would have to start paying their full rent going forward or risk being evicted.
"California is staring down a very deep eviction cliff," says State Assemblymember David Chiu from San Francisco's 17th District. "We have potentially millions of Californians who could be evicted."
Chiu wrote a pair of bills that are working their way through the legislature right now. AB 15 would extend the eviction moratorium. AB 16 establishes a way for the state to distribute $2.6 billion from the governor's budget as rent and mortgage relief.
"This is a difficult conundrum," Chiu says. "It's going to take a number of things to get people back on their feet. But what's most important during this most deadliest moment of the pandemic is we shouldn't be pushing people out onto the streets or forcing them out of their homes."
Chiu says a recent census survey found 2 million Californians have "little to no confidence" in their ability to pay rent next month, underscoring the urgency of the problem.
Groups like the Alliance for Community Empowerment and the Southern California Rental Housing Association are calling for both bills to pass before the moratorium expires.
"We don't want to evict residents," says Lucinda Lilley, the President of the SoCal RHA. "We're not in the business of evicting residents. We provide housing."
She points out that 70% of rental owners in Southern California own less than 50 units. They're individuals, not corporations. And they're struggling too.
"They're your grandmother, your grandfather. They're your mom, your dad. They're your brothers and sisters who inherited a property when someone passed away...
"When the rental assistance is provided, the rental owners can pay their property taxes, which haven't been waived or set aside. They can pay utilities, their insurance and their mortgages." says Lilley.
Right now both bills are in committee. Chiu says the legislature is working around the clock to move them forward.
"The governor, last week, announced that this money was going to move forward," Chiu says. "We're working with the governor's office to get this money out just as quickly as we can."
For people like Mendoza, help can't come fast enough.
"I've never paid my rent late. Never," she says. "They're playing with families' lives, with our homes, with our safety."