Anaheim looking for applicants struggling to pay rent due to pandemic

As of Wednesday, Anaheim had awarded more than $10 million in rent relief money to more than 2,000 families.
ANAHEIM, Calif (KABC) -- Anaheim's emergency rental assistance program is open for its fourth round of applications as the deadline for the state's moratorium on evictions rapidly approaches.

Under the program, income-qualified tenants and their landlords can get 100% of rent and utilities owed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To qualify, renters in Anaheim must prove they've had a hardship due to the pandemic and their income must be below 80% of the area median income.

READ MORE | As California's eviction moratorium ends Friday, some protections remain for tenants

Tina Romero was one of the many residents who qualified. She's a single mother of three who cleans houses for a living, but when the pandemic hit, her clients asked her to stay away.

"They said, 'You know what? We'll call you,'" she recalled. "'We'll call you when we're ready for you,' and that lasted a long time."

Then, she said things got worse. Romero said she lost her stepfather to the virus and it nearly claimed the life of her mother. She also said several of her cousins contracted COVID as well.

Romero was two months behind on rent, but ended up receiving help by applying for Anaheim's emergency rental assistance program. She was informed about it by her apartment complex manager.

"My goodness, that same night I went in and I applied," she said.

Lauren Gold, a city of Anaheim spokesperson, said Romero was one of thousands approved for the program.

"The pandemic really hit Anaheim very hard," said Gold. "We're a very tourist-focused city. That's where a lot of our income comes from is visitors, and that essentially turned off with the Disneyland resort closing down and you know, hotels being restricted and travel being restricted. It was really tough on Anaheim's economy, and we saw a big impact, not only to our big business in the city, like the resort, but the hotel owners and all the small businesses in our city that get benefits from visitors. Many of those are families that live in Anaheim as well those workers, and so this program was a help to keep them on their feet, keep them living here in Anaheim so that now that we're back open, we can bring them back and kind of get everybody back to normal, finally."

Wednesday's launch marked the fourth round of open applications since the program kicked off in May 2020. The city anticipates more applicants as the deadline for the state's moratorium on evictions approaches.

According to Gold, Anaheim is eligible for up to $46 million in state and federal funds to give away, and she said immigration status does not matter.

This time around, landlords can start the application process for their tenants and renters can have 100% of their back-owed rent and utilities covered along with three months of future rent, which gives Romero some peace of mind.

"I can sleep at night, you know?" she said. "I can actually be more loving with my children, because when you don't have peace of mind, sometimes they pay the price as well, and it's not their fault."

Gold said as of Wednesday, Anaheim had awarded more than $10 million to more than 2,000 families.
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