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Residents affected by the pandemic in Costa Mesa could soon receive thousands of dollars to help pay their rent through a federally funded rental assistance program in the city.

Other Orange County cities are also offering rent assistance programs to residents during the pandemic. Irvine established a program in June after months of residents pressing council members there to act. Santa Ana is offering rental assistance as well.

City Councilmembers, earlier this week, voted 6-0 to approve agreements with Mercy House Living Centers and  Serving People in Need, Inc. that will grant hundreds of thousands of dollars to the two nonprofit organizations to run the program.

Councilmember Allan Mansoor was not present at the meeting.

Mercy House Living Centers, a nonprofit based in Santa Ana, will receive up to $180,321 to run the rental program that will help residents without children. They estimate serving 20 households and administrative costs to be a little more $23,000 in their proposal.

Serving People in Need, a nonprofit based in Costa Mesa, will receive up to $207,000 to help renters with children. They estimate in their application serving 30 families with the money. Newport City Council member Joy Brenner is on the nonprofit’s board of directors.

The money will come from federal coronavirus relief funds. 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development notified the city in early April that it would receive $668,658 in a first round of Community Development Block Grant coronavirus money, according to a staff report.

The program will grant residents $6,000 or three full months of rent — whichever is less. The money will go directly to the landlord or property manager from the nonprofit.

To qualify for the program, a resident must have lost income because of the pandemic. They must also have been up to date with their rent payments prior to March 31. A resident must also have an income that is 80% or less of the area median income.

For a family of four that’s an income of $102,450 or less.

“It is really important for our residents that they know they have relief if they need it. I’m very happy that there’s 80% percentile for income because truthfully people who need this are those who are suffering due to COVID,” said Councilmember Manuel Chavez

Residents already utilizing a rental assistance program will be ineligible for the program.

Councilmember Arlis Reynolds said that the assistance the program will provide is a tiny drop in the bucket.

“(I’d) love to continue to learn more about opportunities to help a much, much bigger population of people who are going to need it,” Reynolds said.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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