LA to consider emergency relief program to protect renters affected by COVID-19 pandemic

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday is expected to vote on an emergency measure to help those who have found themselves out of work and unable to pay their rent due to the coronavirus pandemic.

City Council President Nury Martinez is trying to revive the Emergency Renters Relief Program, which was established last year for the first time in the city's history.

The relief fund then raised $3 million for renters who had their rent raised by an exorbitant amount by their landlords - before a state bill that capped rent increases went into effect on Jan. 1.

"Unfortunately, people who are living paycheck to paycheck, that most likely will not be able to go back to work immediately, those folks are just going to fall further and further behind," Martinez said. "So we need to make sure that we have a fund ready for them to access."

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People across Southern California are grappling with the widespread effects of the coronavirus health crisis and that includes how they will pay for rent.

At the emergency council meeting set for Tuesday, Martinez hopes to start the fund with $1 million of seed money from her office's discretionary fund, so that when the health crisis ends, renters won't face eviction and property owners won't face foreclosure.

She's also planning to partner with Councilman Herb Wesson to introduce a proposal that would ensure federal COVID-19 relief dollars coming to Los Angeles will help low-income Angelenos get back to work.
Martinez said the program would create "quality, sustainable employment" once the immediate threat of COVID-19 has decreased, including jobs in construction and housing projects beneficial to "historically underserved'' neighborhoods.

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Nearly 10 million Americans have lost their jobs and applied for unemployment benefits in the past two weeks - a stunning record high that reflects the near-complete shutdown of the U.S. economy.

"We need to get people back to work, and so I want to ensure that the stimulus money gets reinvested in this community, particularly in districts like Mr. Wesson's and myself. Because we will see the economic devastation, it's already here,"

Last year's emergency fund was passed by a 15-0 and Martinez is hoping the same thing will happen on Tuesday.

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At a time of unprecedented levels of economic uncertainty and unemployment, renters and landlords alike are struggling to make ends meet.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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