SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- The San Diego City Council unanimously approved the creation Tuesday of an emergency rental assistance program tied to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which will utilize $15.1 million in federal COVID-19 funds to support thousands of low-income residents experiencing financial hardships.
The COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program will provide up to $4,000 per household, assisting around 3,500 households total, according to the San Diego Housing Commission.
Applications will be available through the housing commission's website no later than July 20.
"Our rental assistance program cleared another hurdle today, and in a matter of weeks over $15 million will be directly available to thousands of renters struggling to navigate the financial challenges of the COVID pandemic," said City Councilman Chris Ward, who proposed the program's creation.
Ward initially sought to allocate $61.9 million of the city's $248.5 million federal CARES Act funding for the program, but that amount was pared down following disagreement from other council members.
"The current $15.1 million is a start to what I hope is continued relief for residents, especially since this program gives us a mechanism to add funds as they become available," Ward said.
To be eligible for the program, households:
-- must be located within the city of San Diego
-- have a household income at or below 60% of the San Diego Area Median Income
-- must not be receiving any rental subsidies
-- must not be a tenant of a property owned or managed by the housing commission
-- must not have savings to meet their financial needs
-- must have eligible immigration status
-- must have experienced hardships directly related to COVID-19
Priority will be given to families with children and households with people age 62 and older.
Itandehui Jiménez, who lives in Linda Vista, said the time has been particularly hard on her children. She is a month and a half late on her $1,800 rent.
"Right now there's no happy moments, because we can't go out," she said. "We're looking for jobs, stressed, looking to do something to get money for the rent."
However, disbursement of funds will otherwise be chosen via a random selection process, according to the housing commission.
"This program will provide some of the stability these families -- and their landlords-- need as San Diego gradually emerges from this health crisis. The San Diego Housing Commission is pleased to partner with the City of San Diego to implement this program, which builds upon our successful track record of providing housing assistance to families in need," SDHC President and CEO Richard C. Gentry said.
The program's creation came on the same day the City Council extended an eviction moratorium until Sept. 30, with the intention of providing relief to those economically impacted by the pandemic.
More information regarding the rental assistance program and eviction moratorium is available at https://www.sdhc.org/about-us/coronavirus-covid-19.