City of Monterey asks county for $1 million for renter assistance

Peninsula Premier Admin

MONTEREY — The Monterey mayor and city manager have contacted county officials asking for $1 million from a large pot of county money that would resurrect Monterey’s renters’ assistance program.

In a Feb. 4 letter to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors and to United Way Monterey County, Monterey Mayor Clyde Roberson and City Manager Hans Uslar requested $1 million from a pot of money the county received from the most recent federal stimulus package.

Initially thought to be roughly $12.9 million back on Feb. 4, the amount the county now has to distribute has risen to about $26.7 million. Uslar on Tuesday said he wasn’t sure yet whether the increase in the county’s fund would translate into a bigger ask by the city.

The $1 million requested in the letter reflects the approximate amount of money provided to the most needful of renters since Monterey began its assistance program in August 2020 — just over $900,000 worth of help.

And so far there is no apparent letting up of need. Grant Leonard, Monterey’s housing analyst who oversaw the program, said the city has seen an increase in the number of applications for assistance since December, following the second statewide shelter-in-place order.

As the COVID-19 pandemic raged through the spring and summer last year, the city established its Emergency Rental Assistance Program with an $800,000 budget in August. The program was partially federally funded through the city’s share of the Community Development Block Grant program, the city’s own Housing Program income and the federal CARES Act.

The assistance has been critical for the 162 households that were eligible for the grant money, said both the city and renters advocates. There were many more who applied for assistance but who did not meet stringent requirements established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The assistance was available to those renters who live in Monterey as well as those who live elsewhere but work in Monterey. In the letter to county supervisors, Roberson and Uslar noted that nearly one-third of recipients lived someplace other than Monterey. Because of the lack of affordable housing in Monterey, many wage earners such as hotel staff and restaurant workers must live in less expensive housing in Salinas and other cities and commute to their jobs.

“Unlike other economies in the county, the hospitality industry is disproportionately affected by the pandemic and the health orders,” Uslar said in an earlier interview with The Herald.

Monterey’s program worked in partnership with United Way, which operated the 211 program that disseminated important information throughout the county, including how to apply to Monterey’s renters’ assistance program.

“The collaboration with United Way made the success of our program possible,” Roberson and Uslar wrote.

Monterey does not charge an administrative fee for managing the program, a point the mayor and city manager made to supervisors. All allocated money to the assistance program goes 100% to people in most need of help. City staff working on the program are paid through other funding sources, the letter said.

“Given the city’s successful track record in implementing the (assistance program), and the increasing need of our residents and workforce for rental assistance, (we) are writing to request the County of Monterey provide a direct allocation of $1 million for the continued operation of the city’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program,” the letter reads.

Contributed by local news sources

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