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Santa Maria among cities, counties helping tenants pay rent

In response to the pandemic shutdown, some Central Coast cities are focused on providing financial support to small businesses. Other cities are directing support to residents. September 4 is the deadline to apply for an emergency rental assistance program in Santa Maria and Goleta.

“I'm so excited that not only the city of Santa Maria, but [Santa Barbara] county is able to offer this—up to three months of rental assistance or up to $5,000 maximum to qualified households, so to low-to-moderate income households,” said Rosa Rojo, community programs manager for the city of Santa Maria.

Rojo said the program is also available to those who live in unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County. The money comes from the federal CARES act. 

“One thing that we noticed right away was the need for rental assistance, because so many people were financially affected or are financially affected by COVID,” Rojo said. “The rental assistance can pay for either past rent or upcoming rent.”

And it’s a grant, not a loan—the money is paid directly to landlords on the tenant’s behalf.

The application is online, via the city of Santa Maria’s website. If someone wants to apply who doesn’t have internet access, they can call the city’s partnering agency called the Legal Aid Foundation. Foundation staff will walk the applicant through the process.

The city of Santa Barbara offered a similar program, and high demand means that money’s all used up. Similarly, Santa Maria’s program only has so much money, and is first come, first serve. But even if this round of grants are all distributed, Rojo urges tenants to submit an application anyway, because there’s the possibility of more federal money coming.

“I think when all of this money was released in March, no one really knew how long [the pandemic shutdown] was going to go for or what the impacts were going to be,” Rojo said. “And I think now that we're getting closer and closer to the end of the year, and it doesn't seem like there's going to be any relief in sight—who knows what might happen. It doesn't hurt to apply, it doesn't cost anything to apply, so you might as well just apply.”

Find more information and the application on the city of Santa Maria’s homepage, or check to see if your city is offering anemergency coronavirus-related rental assistance program. The city of Lompoc will be opening upa utility assistance program in the coming days.

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