By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – California lawmakers worked Monday to expand eviction protections for applicants of the state’s COVID-19 rental relief program through June, a measure lawmakers said is necessary to avoid a wave of evictions.
Lawmakers in the Assembly advanced Assembly Bill 2179 on Monday, which protects tenants who apply for emergency rental assistance from eviction through June 30.
The move by the Assembly came as the deadline for residents to apply for the state’s COVID-19 rent relief program is Thursday. As of Monday, the state had received nearly 490,000 applications for relief but had only delivered assistance to around 214,200 of those households.
Advocates across the state called on lawmakers to extend eviction protections as thousands of tenants are still awaiting relief funds. Many feared that without an extension of eviction protections, tenants who are still awaiting assistance from the state’s rental relief program could face eviction starting Friday.
Lawmakers acknowledged Monday that California is actively delivering relief to tenants, but it is taking longer than expected, and thousands are still awaiting payments.
“It would be cruel, it would be wasteful and unfair to subject Californians to eviction or the loss of rental income now when they have done everything that they have been asked and also the distribution of their rent emergency rental assistance is imminent,” the bill’s co-author Assemblymember Tim Grayson, D-Concord, said Monday on the Assembly floor.
Several lawmakers voiced support for the measure during Monday’s floor session, saying that the bill would ensure that tenants awaiting relief from the program will not risk losing their homes. Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, said Monday that without passing this bill, lawmakers could see a “mass wave of evictions” in communities across the state.
The bill faced opposition from Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, who said he could not support the legislation because it preempts local ordinances in San Francisco and parts of Los Angeles.
With the deadline for rent relief expiring on April 1, San Francisco city and county officials moved forward with their law that expanded protections after April 1. AB 2179, however, blocks local jurisdictions from enacting new tenant protections until July 1 and protections put in place after Aug. 19, 2020, will also be delayed, according to CalMatters.
Under these rules, some local jurisdictions, including parts of Los Angeles and Oakland, will be allowed to keep local eviction protections, while San Francisco cannot enact local measures.
“There is no policy rationale for overriding local eviction protections in San Francisco, etc., while allowing other cities to protect their renters,” Mr. Ting and Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, said in a joint statement Monday. “This arbitrary distinction is harmful to San Francisco renters, as well as renters in other cities and counties that aren’t part of the favored group of cities.
“We shouldn’t be playing favorites by allowing some cities to protect their renters while prohibiting other cities from doing so. Cities must have the ability to protect their residents from eviction and homelessness.”
The bill is now headed for a vote in the Senate.