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City creates proactive plan for rental assistance

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

After initially announcing it would wait to see what protections Los Angeles County’s rental assistance program would offer, the city of Claremont took a proactive step Tuesday by launching its program first.

During the city council meeting, the council approved two emergency assistance programs that would provide grants to either Claremont renters or businesses that have been significantly impacted by the stay at home orders from the state and county.

Under the emergency rental assistance program, qualifying individuals and families can receive a rental subsidy for two months based on income and size of household.

The applicants must meet additional criteria including: residing in Claremont; annual income not to exceed Housing and Unban Development’s moderate income levels; household was economically impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic period, February through present; have a signed lease agreement; provide a W-9 form from their landlord or property management company; and submit a signed participation agreement between tenant landlord and the city. The application process will be conducted online.

Income eligibility ranges widely. An individual is considered extremely low income if earning $23,700, moderate income at $63,100. A family of four is extremely low income at $33,800 and moderate at $90,100.

Rental assistance will be in the form of a monthly rental payment made directly to the landlord or property manager. The amount of the rental assistance shall not exceed HUD’s maximum allowable rent because the money comes from the block grants.

“HUD has a formula that gives rent a percentage of income (30 percent max should be spent on rent). The maximum amount is what the renter will receive towards offsetting rent per month,” Bevin Handel, Claremont public information officer, told the COURIER.

This means an extremely low income person will actually receive less for a similar unit than a moderate income person under HUD rules.

Applications will be accepted beginning at noon on Monday, May 18 and will continue until noon the following Monday, or until 100 applications have been received.

Applicants must complete a brief intake form on the city’s website after which the applicant will receive an email with the application along with a list of required supporting documentation. The application process will be conducted online through the city’s website.

The city has also launched a related program to provide grants for small businesses impacted by mandatory closures in either the county’s safer at home order, or the state’s stay-at-home order.

The small business grant program is intended to help businesses that are unable to pay employees or their commercial rent. Qualified applicants will receive grants in the form of a check from the city of Claremont. If the business is requesting assistance with their commercial lease, the payment will be made directly to the landlord or property manager. Documentation on how the funds will be spent must be provided.

Small business grants will be made under two HUD eligibility criteria: microenterprise assistance, in which the business has fewer than five employees and the owner’s income is at or below 80 percent of the area median; or a special economic development activity under which the business must meet a public benefit. This could include making a job available to a low or moderate income person, or creating one full time equivalent job. Detailed requirements for businesses can be found on the city’s website.

The applicant can request a specific amount, based on their unique rent and payroll circumstances, in an amount not to exceed $20,000, according to a news release from the city.

To be eligible a business must meet specific requirements including: be a small business with fewer than 500 employees; multinational or publicly traded businesses are not eligible; must be a commercial business; located in the city; business was impacted by COVID-19—was required to close as non-essential, or reduced business due to safer at home order and social distancing.

Similar to the residential relief program, applications will be accepted beginning at noon on May 18 and will continue for a week, or until the city receives 20 applications.

Funding for the program comes from a series of community development block grants the city receives every year from HUD and grants cities get from the county under the CARES act. This includes $85,948 from the 2019-2020 allocation that was not spent, plus $186,003 available from a prior year, according to numbers provided by the city.

“It’s $188k for rental assistance covering two months Then later we will move $100k for homelessness prevention making a total package of $288k,” councilmember Jed Leano said in an email.

The initial $188,000 budget for the rental assistance program will include a community development block grant of $92,759 from the county’s allocation under the CARES act and $95,538 from fiscal year 2020-21 CDBG funds.

The budget for the emergency small business grant program will come from two CDBG funds, $176,368 from fiscal year 2019-20 and $106,146 from fiscal year 2020-21.

The total package will be $470,856 for both rental assistance and business grant programs, Ms. Handel said.

To apply for the rental assistance program visit the city’s website at this address:

https://www.ci.claremont.ca.us/living/covid-19-information/claremont-tenant-assistance-program

For the small business program visit this site:

https://www.ci.claremont.ca.us/living/covid-19-information/claremeont-business-assistance-program

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