CityServe offers eviction prevention appointments for landlords and renters at Seven Oaks Church in Visalia
TULARE COUNTY — As the pandemic lingered, so did its effect on entire sectors of the economy, leaving many unemployed or underemployed due to a sickly market or just from being sick. Tens of thousands in Tulare County filed for unemployment but more still attempted to continue working despite restrictions limiting their hours and pay. This contributed to many falling behind on their rent, which in turn affects landlords, often owner-operators, who were not allowed to evict tenants and were, in some cases, unable to generate an income for themselves.
To help renters and landlords alike, CityServe, a Bakersfield-based network of churches raising private donations for their communities, launched its Eviction Prevention Starting Point in mid-March. Since that time, hundreds of landlords and renters have requested appointments for rent relief and have shared personal stories of financial hardship amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has affected every livelihood in one way or another and no two stories are the same,” said Crissy Sanchez-Cochran, director of communications for CityServe. “As our enrollers sit down to walk landlords and renters through the application process, they share their story of hardship. We are honored to serve the community alongside the local church to help people through a difficult time so they can get the help they need.”
Landlords with unpaid rent and tenants with past-due rent are encouraged to apply for rent relief as soon as possible. Here are some situations that lead individuals to request an appointment for financial assistance.
“Despite multiple olive branches extended to the tenant, no rents have been paid since COVID,” said Raymond, a local landlord.
“I was diagnosed with COVID-19 and was hospitalized for three months,” said Ana. “It financially affected me due to not being able to return to work. I still have many complications preventing me from working and I’m a few months behind on rent.”
“My husband was laid off at the beginning of the pandemic,” Brenda said. “I was the only source of income and it wasn’t enough to cover the rent.”
CityServe’s Eviction Prevention Starting Point helps landlords and renters start on the path to receive financial assistance through the California COVID-19 Rent Relief program. To start the application process, landlords and renters must request an appointment at www.cityservenetwork.com/evictionprevention. Application appointments are scheduled each Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Seven Oaks Church, 1021 S. Burke St. in Visalia. Those seeking financial assistance can also call the administrative manager, Samantha Smith, directly at 725-780-6963. For assistance in Spanish, call Devon Pozo, 661-583-3222.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 91 on Jan. 29 extending the state’s COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act through June 30, 2021. Under the law, landlords can get reimbursed for 80% of past due rent accrued between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, if they agree to waive the remaining 20% of unpaid rent. Eligible renters whose landlords choose not to participate may still apply on their own and receive 25% of unpaid rent accrued between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, through a direct payment to their landlord. If a landlord refuses direct payment, the 25% can be paid to the renter to pay missed rent to their landlord by June 30, 2021. Paying 25% of past due rent by June 30, 2021 can help keep renters in their homes under the extended eviction protections provided in SB91. Eligible renters can also receive help paying future rent, equal to 25% of their monthly amount to help them stay in their homes, and 100% of up to 12 months of unpaid or future utility bills. Funds are distributed on a first come, first serve basis.
CityServe is a collaborative network of churches and community leaders connected to help those in need live better lives. CityServe empowers the local church to fulfill its purpose to overcome despair and transform lives by resourcing them with tangible goods and capacity building. CityServe brings the church to the table to address community challenges by offering long-lasting relationships that lead to transformation and has been designated a “Community of Faith and Opportunity” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since the food box program launched, the CityServe collaborative network has distributed over 15 million Farmers to Families food boxes to the “Last Mile of Need.” For more information about CityServe and its initiatives, please visit www.cityservenetwork.com or on social platforms @cityservenetwork.