STANISLAUS COUNTY, Calif. — It’s been a rollercoaster ride for some counties trying to navigate how to best distribute federal funds related to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERA).
Stanislaus County provided a snapshot of just how difficult it can be to get the money to those who need it. Out of 6,430 applications received, 349 were approved. 3,780 applications were denied. 1,447 remain processing with another 852 in review.
"It's great for people who received it. The program design is something we don't totally like, and, so it's been really frustrating for a lot of landlords,” said Barbara Kauss, CEO and Executive Director of the Stanislaus Regional Housing Authority.
According to county documents, those denied include no "COVID-related hardship," "applicant was a homeowner, not a tenant" or "household was over income threshold."
The housing authority has had to combat a number of issues in administering the program that included "strict warnings against fraud with agencies responsible to pay back any misspent money," "no program-wide standard operational guidelines" and some frustrated "landlords attempting to file applications on behalf of the tenants."
All told, Stanislaus County and the City of Modesto have been allocated $32.9 million in ERA funding.
The housing authority oversees the processing of the federal ERA program from the U.S. Treasury. Kauss said landlords should be able to file for the funding on the behalf of tenants.
"And, so we believe it should have been landlord-focused. And, so what happens is a lot of landlords are frustrated with the program because they can't get tenant information,” Kauss said.
In the meantime, the state as a whole said it still seeing "strong demand" for its emergency rental assistance.
So far, the state has over 700,000 active cases or applications in progress.
The program ends when the money runs out.
"We will keep spending rent relief until we've spent through all the round one and round two federal dollars,” said Russ Heimerich, spokesperson for the Consumer Services and Housing Agency for the State of California.
For more information on applying, go to www.housing.ca.gov.