LOS ANGELES - A five-day application period opens Monday for a city relief program aimed at helping Los Angeles residential tenants struggling with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The application process for the Emergency Renters Relief Program will be open for five days, starting at 8 a.m. Monday and closing at 11:59 p.m. Friday, said Ann Sewill, general manager of the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department, which is charged with administering the program.
Interested renters can apply online. People with limited online access may call the Application Hotline at 844-944-1868, between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. People with hearing or speech impairments may call 844-325-1398 during the same hours.
Not even an hour after the application process opened, the website said it was “experiencing high volume of traffic” and asked users to try again in 30 minutes. The phone number was not functioning on Monday,
Mike Lowery is one of several people who said they struggled to apply for the program on.
Lowery tried calling as soon as the phone lines opened at 8 a.m.
"It was some sort of error message that they gave you, application error, and the phone hung up, and I must have called that number at least 30 times. It did say that we're experiencing a lot of call volume blah blah blah, but I felt like I purposely waited until 8:01 to dial so I could be one of the first people to do it," he said.
Lowery works in a barber shop, one of the establishments now closed per Governor Newsom's new order.
"We just got shut down again and we can't go to work and there's no money coming in so what else is it to do?" Lowery asked.
Officials stressed that there is no advantage for early registration. All eligible applicants will have an equal chance of being randomly selected once the registration ends.
The program is open to all renters, regardless of immigration status.
"We know people throughout the city of Los Angeles need assistance, particularly our working poor and disenfranchised communities, who are hit hardest by both the health and economic impacts of COVID-19," Council President Nury Martinez said.
"Demand will be high and serve as a reminder that the federal government must offer billions more in housing assistance if we are going to help all who need assistance to remain in their homes during and after this pandemic."
The program allocates $103 million to provide a rent subsidy for low-income tenants in the city of Los Angeles who are unable to pay rent due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
HCIDLA officials are calling it the largest coronavirus-related emergency rental assistance program in the nation. The majority of the funds -- $100 million -- come from the city federal CARES Act stimulus money.
The subsidy is anticipated to assist an estimated 50,000 Los Angeles households. It will provide a grant of up to $1,000 per month, with a maximum grant of $2,000 per household, and will be paid directly to the tenant's landlord on behalf of the tenant.
Eligible tenants are those whose household income is at or below 80% of the area median income.
It is anticipated that the number of applications will far exceed available funding, therefore all applications submitted during the application period that meets all requirements will be placed in a random selection system.
The program was first proposed by Martinez and Councilmen Herb Wesson and Mitch O'Farrell. It is based on a program created last winter when some tenants allegedly were being "rent- gouged" before a state rent-control law took effect.
The reinstated program deals with the health pandemic.
"Pulling together at every level of government as never before is required to keep people housed and businesses open during this unprecedented time," O'Farrell said.
"Much more is needed but this $100 million rent subsidy program is a great start.
Allocating this funding from the CoronavirusAid, Relief, and Economic Security Act will help stabilize thousands of families in Los Angeles.
"The recovery will be hard enough without people having to worry about how to stay housed and put food on the table while meeting their financial obligations," O'Farrell added.
FOX 11's Koco McAboy contributed to this story