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June 2, 2021: Issue 1


Written by Faith in Action Bay Area Leaders in San Mateo County
As state eviction protections are set to expire on June 30, but thousands of San Mateo County families still have rent debt, we are distributing this newsletter to update policymakers and members of the community on the eviction cliff
One Redwood City Family's
Pandemic Experience and Pending Eviction
Three generations share our home: my father, husband and two children. Our family did everything possible to pay rent little by little until February of this year. My father was the first to lose his job. I am on maternity leave--my little one was born this month. My husband is only able to find work for a few hours each month. I am grateful for the few months of rental assistance that we received in 2020 from the Fair Oaks Community Center. However, we have been unable to pay our full rent since February 2021.

Our family did apply for the California state program for rent debt relief, but at this time, it only reimburses for rent debt before April 2021.

Our landlord also applied, and he received 80% of the rent debt from February and March. However, he recently came to our family very upset that the April and May rent is unpaid and insisted we pay that rent immediately. He is also upset that he lost 20% of the rent due from February and March. He said that if we can’t pay, we must move or he will take us to eviction court in July.
I am very afraid for my babies and my family.

I know there are many other families in similar situations. I hope you can help my family and others. 

Monica’s experience with rent relief programs is a “best case scenario”: she received help from her local core agency program in 2020; she and her landlord both participated in the state ERAP program in 2021; and, unlike the vast majority of applicants, they already received money from the state program. Even so, she is still facing the threat of eviction after July 1 due to unpaid rent for the months of April and May. The current programs have not been structured to fully protect families from eviction by June 30. 
News from Sacramento
  1. The Legislature and Governor must pass an extension to the eviction moratorium before June 30. It would most likely be passed as a budget trailer bill. Thus far, no moratorium extension has been included in the budget.
  2. While there is progress in the legislature towards improving the debt relief program, without an extension of the eviction moratorium, those improvements will be meaningless. The debt relief program needs to be improved AND given time to work. As of today, no protections are secure at the state level.
Data: Let's Do the Numbers
How many San Mateo County families are at risk for eviction?
According to Policylink, an estimated 10,945 households in San Mateo County have rent debt as of March 2021--through no fault of their own--leaving them at risk of eviction.

Is the state debt relief program through SB 91 meeting its goals?

The answer is an emphatic "NO." Here are some important findings from Faith in Action Bay Area's phone calls to tenants and landlords in San Mateo County:
  1. There is not enough outreach to landlords and tenants who hold/owe rent debt and could benefit from the program. Many small landlords are unaware of the program--of the 57 phone call respondents who requested more information, 49 (87%) were unaware of the program.
  2. The program is not accessible. Applications must be completed online on a technologically complex platform, and many low-income families do not have access to computers, internet, or technological assistance. In addition, the application is be initiated in English, and many families lack language support.
  3. The money is being disbursed too slowly. As reported in the Pacifica Tribune, only $314,037 of the $20 million (just 1.6%) requested in San Mateo County has been paid out.

We cannot rely on this program to protect San Mateo County families from eviction.

As we recover from this pandemic, who is left behind?
The physical and financial hardships of the pandemic have fallen disproportionately on low-income people, the elderly, the disabled, and people of color. The CDC states that COVID-19 has inequitably impacted many racial and ethnic minorities who more greatly represent our essential workers. San Mateo County needs to provide more support to these groups to achieve an equitable recovery from the pandemic.
Questions from the Community
For Policymakers
1. How much money will it cost San Mateo County to provide homeless services to 11,000 households who are at risk for eviction on July 1, if no action is taken?

2. If essential workers cannot equitably benefit from rent relief programs, how much slower will our economy recover?

3. If San Mateo County families continue to struggle with a rent debt that could have been canceled, what will the political fallout be?
Local Media Spotlight
ABC 7 News: Advocates fear thousands of families will end up homeless with eviction moratorium set to expire next month

San Mateo Daily Journal: California’s rent relief program 
Op-ed by Leora Tanjuatco-Ross of Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County 

Pacifica Tribune: Millions in rental assistance remain unspent
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