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How new COVID stimulus package affects California renters, homeowners. What to expect

How new COVID stimulus package affects California renters, homeowners. What to expect

WASHINGTON

Congress is making some money available for people who need help paying their rent, but they’re only extending an eviction moratorium by a month. And there’s no new help for people with mortgages.

Congress passed the latest stimulus package Monday, and President Donald Trump has indicated he will sign it. Lawmakers created a $25 billion pot of money available for people to receive help with rent and utility payments.

But Congress only extended an eviction moratorium, saying people cannot be evicted from rentals, for another month. That matches California’s existing moratorium that’s already on the books.

Of California’s 9.2 million households paying rent, 7.8 million said in mid-November they were caught up on rent payments — while 1 million said they were not, according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey. The same survey found 643,785 households had no confidence they could afford to pay next month’s rent, while 1.4 million had only slight confidence.

The rent crisis is hitting minority communities particularly hard. About 46% of those not caught up with the rent in the state were Hispanic and 21% were black. About 20% were white and 13% were Asian.

EVICTION MORATORIUM

Congress extended the eviction moratorium to January 31, 2021. California’s eviction moratorium expires at the same time, though there’s a proposal in the state legislature to extend it to the end of 2021.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services who has been pushing for more rental assistance for months, said she’s hoping the moratorium will be further extended.

“The extension of the eviction moratorium will also ensure that families who are behind on their rent are not facing eviction on January 1,” Waters said in a statement. “However, I do believe that a longer moratorium will be needed and call on President-elect (Joe) Biden to use his executive authority to further extend this moratorium once he is sworn into office.”

RENTAL ASSISTANCE

Those who need rental assistance will be able to apply for it through their state. There will be $25 billion available nationally, which people can apply to both their rent and utility payments — even payments that accumulated as early as the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m not sure it is as big and bold as we hoped for, but it is significant,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.

Eligible renters would also have access to services, such as case management and tenant-landlord mediation, to help them remain in housing. A household may receive up to 12 months of assistance and an additional three months under certain circumstances.

If a renter qualifies for the federal aid, the payment is sent directly to the landlord unless the landlord refuses to take it. If that happens, the payment goes to the renter to give to the landlord personally. Landlords can also apply for rental assistance on behalf of their tenants, but they have to notify them and obtain their consent.

MORTGAGE HELP

A previous stimulus bill Congress passed included protections for people with mortgage payments. It provided temporary protection from foreclosure through both a foreclosure moratorium and forbearance on mortgage payments.

It only applied to those with federally-backed mortgages, which covers about a third of all borrowers.

The new stimulus bill does not include any additional protections for those who can’t pay their mortgages, and existing protections are set to expire on Dec. 31. However, individual government agencies such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could extend those protections further without congressional approval.

McClatchy reporter David Lightman contributed to this report.

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