This article was written by BenitoLink intern Andrew Pearson.
On July 28, the San Juan Bautista City Council discussed the projected rent crisis that threatens the town.
California, said City Manager Don Reynolds, is approaching an “eviction cliff,” after which many people will likely be evicted when they can’t pay their current rent and possibly back rent. Their housing depends on the state’s judicial rent moratorium, which ended on July 31.
The state has given counties the option to extend local moratoriums until Sept. 30, a step already taken by San Jose which has extended its moratorium to Aug. 31.
In response, the City Council plans to participate in California’s Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG). Conducted by the state Department of Housing and Community Development, the program awards grants to rural communities with housing emergencies.
San Juan Bautista will present its case for receiving $67,000 in CDBG aid on Aug. 6 in a hearing before a Housing and Community Development board.
Reynolds said that $67,000 “isn’t a lot of money” with which to rescue the city’s housing. However, San Benito County, San Juan and Hollister will partner together to increase the chances of receiving the grant.
The City Council said it would pass 15% of the grant along to the county for administrative expenses. “The important part is that our residents connect their hardship to COVID” when they apply, said Reynolds.
None of the council members commented on or questioned the plan to apply for CDBG funds, beyond congratulations and encouragement.
The Hollister City Council discussed its own CDBG application at its Aug. 3 meeting. The Board of Supervisors of San Benito County did so on Aug. 4.
Besides housing, there is other grant funding on the line. Federal grants to help businesses stay in existence end soon, and various state grants for nonprofits expire on August 14. However, the county is extending new grants to non-traditional service providers. Organizations which provide “public benefit” or services for the underprivileged can apply for $7,500 grants through the county’s Community Action Board by Aug. 10. Enrique Arreola, deputy director of county Health and Human Services, and Reynolds encouraged organizations such as baseball teams or elder care facilities to apply for relief under these terms.
Reynolds said that the city had previously considered soliciting the help of CDBG, which he praised as “a very successful program,” in fall 2019. Back then, the City Council was discussing possible ways to invest a CDBG grant, probably in the welfare of “moderate to low income residents” and in “economic development, public facility acquisition [and] improvement, and other services,” just as the pandemic began.
The county already has a rental-assistance program in place, and it has a waiting list. The state’s CDBG program has more money available and catches small, rural communities that fall through the cracks of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
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