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Sonoma County misses state rent-relief spending deadline

On Thursday, Sept. 30, California’s restrictions on evictions for nonpayment of rent due to Covid-19 lapsed. Sonoma County’s own pandemic eviction protections will carry on for a while longer, and tenants who have applied for rent-relief money will have some protections.

However, a Sonoma County program to provide relief for renters and landlords financially impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic still struggles to distribute funds, with some applicants complaining about long delays and mixed messages.

The county’s program began in April and by Sept. 30 had distributed—or allocated for distribution—nearly $14.6 million in federal funds to applicants, according to numbers provided by Dave Kiff, the interim director of Community Development Commission, the county housing agency handling the state and federal rent-relief funds.

It’s not clear from the numbers Kiff provided how much money has actually reached landlords and tenants. By Sept. 30, a total of 1,020 renters and landlords had received funds, while another 2,252 individuals had filed requests.

While that may sound impressive, Kiff told the Bohemian in an email that the county also lost access to an additional $17.5 million in state rental assistance funds because the CDC missed an Aug. 1 deadline to allocate 65% of the money.

Luckily for those in need, there are still more funds available. The county stands to receive an additional $13.8 million from the state and an additional $17.3 million in federal funds.

As an applicant, the process can be frustrating. Last week, Fred Allebach, a Sonoma Valley resident, wrote an opinion piece for the Sonoma Index-Tribune outlining his attempts to get some of the rent relief funds.

Allebach, a persistent New York native, says he applied for money in July and has routinely followed up with county and nonprofit officials managing the rent-relief funds. So far, his efforts have not paid off, and he has heard differing advice from different institutions.

“From the standpoint of an applicant, a low income applicant without the language skills and persistence that I have, it would seem like they’re leaving a lot of people out who could be getting aid,” Allebach told the Bohemian.

For more information about Sonoma County’s rent relief program, visit SoCoEmergency.org/ERAP. For legal advice about tenants’ rights, contact Legal Aid of Sonoma County’s Housing Hotline at 707.843.4432.

Will Carruthers
Will Carruthers is a news reporter for the Pacific Sun and North Bay Bohemian. Email tips to [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @Carruthers_W.
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