The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors has voted to use $13.4 million in federal pandemic relief funds for direct assistance to low-income renters who lost income because of COVID-19.
The money was part of the stimulus bill approved in December. In Santa Barbara County, it will go toward a three-month rental subsidy up to $6,000 for households that cannot pay rent because of a loss or a reduction of income due to COVID-19. Qualifying households can re-apply for three more months of assistance, for up to a total of 15 months.
Rent payments will be made directly to landlords, and money will be put to any owed back rent before current or future rent. Those who apply for rent assistance will also be eligible for utility assistance, and those payments will be made directly to utility providers.
The program will be available to all county residents at or below 80% of the area’s median income, and residents at or below 50% of the median will be prioritized. The county has contracted with United Way of Santa Barbara to administer the application process, which begins Feb. 15 and goes until all funds have been used or Dec. 30, whichever comes first.
“These are unforeseen circumstances where for the sake of public health, government restrictions have changed residents’ lives,” said Supervisor and Board Chairman Bob Nelson. “Some of those changes have resulted in lost jobs and therefore the inability to afford rent, food, medicine or other necessary expenses. With this program, many of these individuals can now meet these basic needs.”