Filiberto Zaragoza, a 19-year-old student at Foothill College, has had his hands full the past few months trying to accommodate his congregation.
As a core member of Youth United for Community Action (YUCA) in East Palo Alto, he has knocked on doors, met with tenants, and helped run clinics to support households who have been evicted before October. Zaragoza said clinics were being held outside St. Francis Church in East Palo Alto and near Woodland Park Apartments.
And those efforts paid off: by September 30, the group had helped about 150 households apply for rent benefits and contacted about 2,800 households, he said.
California’s statewide eviction ban ended October 1. In California, tenant households are protected from eviction if, according to CalMatters, they paid 25% of their rent between September 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021.
They also cannot be evicted for rent owed between March 1 and August 31, 2020 as long as they respond to their notice of eviction with a signed statement stating that they have faced financial hardship related to COVID-19 .
However, the full rent accrued between March 2020 and September 2021 is still due.
Surgo Ventures, a nonprofit “action tank” for global and public health, analyzed the latest data from the US Census Bureau and made estimates to evaluate the rent arrears of households in each county. According to their report, about 12% of households in the San Mateo district, or nearly 13,000 households in the district, owed a total of $ 98.3 million in rent, or an average of $ 7,633 per household in arrears.
In Santa Clara County, the study estimated that about 13% or 36,000 households across the county were behind on rent, owing a total of $ 256.2 million, or about $ 7,227 per household.
People are entitled to rent relief if they are financially affected by the pandemic and earn less than 80% of the median income in the region, according to CalMatters. In San Mateo County, that threshold is $ 102,450 for a one-person household or $ 146,350 for a four-person household. In Santa Clara County it is $ 82,450 for a one-person household or $ 117,750 for a four-person household.
“As soon as we heard about all the things we can do as teenagers – outreach, clinics, help with organizing everything, we were immediately on board,” said Zaragoza. “We saw how serious the eviction really is and we wanted to seize this moment and really help our community.”
Young people have a say at YUCA, Zaragoza said, describing the process by which young people join the organization and then, as they rise through the ranks, are entitled to both more responsibility and more money in their community service.
In his conversations with residents, he said, many people did not know that there was help out there for them or that they could fill out an application so that they would not be evicted from their homes.
“It was very important to make this known to so many families, especially people who don’t speak English,” he said.
One challenge that many households faced using the application was asking for details of how much each household could pay each month and how much each household was under – numbers that were not easy to pin down for some families.
When that publication spoke to Zaragoza on September 30th, he found that people can still apply for rent relief after that day, but are not necessarily eligible for eviction protection.
âIt’s great that the people of East Palo Alto can take advantage of this moment and this application,â he said. âThings have been really tough because of COVID. Lots of people struggled. The last thing we want is for another family to move out of East Palo Alto or be kicked out of East Palo Alto. We believe that living is a human being. “Right and always will be.”