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Tenants' rights group calls for extension of California rental assistance program

On April 1, landlords will be able to start filing eviction notices for people who have not paid rent due to hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic. Tenants’ rights groups claim only a fraction of rent relief applicants have received assistance.

California's Emergency Rental Assistance is set to expire on March 31 and rental advocates across the state are calling for an extension on the program in order to prevent evictions.

Ramon Toscano is an ACCE San Diego member who rents a two-bedroom apartment in Vista with his wife and six kids.

“What will happen on April 1? I'm going to have a note on the door that says, 'You have three days to leave,’” Toscano said in Spanish. “We don't know what to do, that's why the uncertainty grows with every day that passes. It stresses you more and more, because what can you do?”

RELATED: Rental Relief Aims To Prevent Tsunami Of Evictions, But Will It Be Enough?

The Housing NOW! California coalition is calling on state leaders to extend the application period and tenant coverage for rental assistance through the end of August.

Consuelo Martinez is an Escondido City council member who supports the extension. She said Spanish-speaking residents in her district face extra barriers to knowing their rights as renters.

“I’m very concerned about this eviction tsunami and the displacement of our residents and I want to do everything in my power to help," she said. "I am calling on our state elected to take action, we need to protect our residents.”

RELATED: San Diego gets $8.3 million to help low-income tenants pay rent

Communications manager Nur Kausar of California Housing and Community Development sent a statement to KPBS that reads as follows:

“The CA COVID-19 Rent Relief application portal closes after March 31. At that point, no new applications will be accepted, but the program will continue to process and pay all eligible applicants that submit a completed application on or before March 31, 2022. The program will continue to operate until all complete applications received are processed and all eligible applicants have been paid.”

RELATED: City Heights residents, immigrants among most severely rent burdened in San Diego

A recent study from the National Equity Atlas, Western Center on Law & Poverty, and Housing Now found that roughly two-thirds of applicants to the state’s rent relief program are still waiting for assistance.

“My wife and I, well, we would live in the car,” Toscano said if his family were to be evicted. “But you're not going to put six kids in a car, no way.”

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Tenant rights leaders who spoke at Tuesday’s online event said there are links between negative health consequences and those who are evicted. Most importantly, they stressed that evictions can cause homelessness.