May 9, 2022
By SAJE Staff
After breaking their promise to provide tenants with 18 months of rental assistance through their Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) is being sued by Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) and Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE Action). SAJE and ACCE Action are being represented by Western Center on Law & Poverty, Public Counsel, and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.
In California, the HDC is charged with administering the ERAP, a federally funded program established in December 2020 to assist those unable to pay their rent due to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, HCD promised tenants the option to apply for rental assistance through May 2022. However, they abruptly closed the ERAP application portal on March 31, 2022.
“When I heard about the ERAP program, I got very happy because I was impacted by COVID-19, and I lost my job,” said Dionicia Cipres, tenant and SAJE member. “I sent my ERAP application and I got approved for a few months, but I was put on hold for February and March. I had initially put down the April and May rents on my application, but when the March 31st deadline was announced, those months were not included and had to be removed. I don’t know how I’m going to pay June because I don’t have steady income.”
The lawsuit seeks to compel HCD to immediately reverse policies that stop payments to tenants for debt accrued after the sudden and arbitrary March 31, 2022 cutoff date and to make available the full 18 months of rental assistance to all eligible applicants.
“California received billions of dollars from the federal government and has a significant state budget surplus—more than enough to keep people housed through ERAP,” said Madeline Howard, senior attorney for Western Center on Law & Poverty. “In the midst of a homelessness and housing affordability crisis, the state must use its resources to keep people in the homes they already have so as not to compound the crisis.”