The deadly winter surge has provided another sober reminder of how the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our lowest-income and most vulnerable residents. In addition to being disproportionately impacted by the deadly virus itself, extremely low income (ELI) residents – and, particularly, people of color – are suffering the brunt of job losses and economic hardship resulting from this pandemic.
As a result, residents who were already severely rent burdened are being pushed towards financial crisis and the looming threat of homelessness when temporary protections expire.
Thanks to the commitment of several dozen public, private, philanthropic and nonprofit partners, our community distributed more than $31 million in rental and financial assistance to over 14,000 low-income households during 2020 – providing a critical financial lifeline to those in greatest need. Read more about our financial & rent relief efforts to-date
However, we have much more work to do to ensure that our most vulnerable residents remain stably housed in the months ahead.
The Severe Challenges Facing Our Lowest-Income Households
The top priority of our collective relief effort has been to assist the most vulnerable and severely-impacted members of our community – which is why the most recent phase of our rental assistance program continues to focus on providing assistance for extremely low income (ELI) residents (those making less than 30% of the area’s median income, or roughly $47K for a family of four).
- The average ELI family we’ve assisted has seen their income drop by 2/3 – with their average current income of $1,000/month far short of their average rent of $1,700/month.
- The families and individuals we assisted this past December had accrued an average of $5,000/household in owed back rent.
In addition, we continue to see that ELI residents often have specific needs or circumstances that add to their vulnerability. Many of the residents we’ve helped are unbanked, lack consistent access to technology and/or live in non-traditional lease arrangements – all of which can prevent them from accessing typical forms of assistance.
In fact, 25% of households served in our previous phase were not able to access an online payment platform, and for roughly 40% of the households we’ve served in the most recent phase, we were unable to connect with a landlord to accept a rental assistance payment. It took the dedicated efforts of our partners to be able to provide assistance to ALL of these households; however it further underscores the need for employing a flexible, community-driven approach to ensure vulnerable families and individuals are able to adequately address their needs.
Deliberately Meeting the Need in Our Community
While the level of need among ELI residents remains enormous, there are signs of hope on the immediate horizon. Last week, the Governor and State Legislature reached an agreement to:
- Extend the statewide eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021; and
- Deploy roughly $1.5 billion in federal funding through a statewide rental assistance program (scheduled to launch in March).
At the same time, Destination: Home is working with the City of San Jose and County of Santa Clara to explore options for deploying their direct allocation of federal funding for rental assistance – with a particular focus on ensuring how we can use our local share of federal dollars to meet the serious and unique needs of ELI and other vulnerable residents.
With the restrictions of government funding, we are also continuing to seek private and philanthropic funding for the next phase of this relief effort. Private funding is critically-needed to ensure we have enough flexible resources available to help families address other basic needs during this crisis. With support for necessities like food, medicine, and transportation not covered by the new stimulus package – and many of the most in need renters living in non-traditional housing situations – families are falling behind and desperately need more help to meet the specific and unique challenges they are facing.
We will keep you posted as these conversations continue and the next phase of our relief effort unfolds in the weeks ahead. Together, we can ensure that we have a truly equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.