Fullerton City Council unanimously approved an emergency rental assistance program at their June 16 meeting to help those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At their June 2 meeting, Council did not have the votes to pass a temporary rent freeze amid pleas from many low-income renters, specifically those of Palm Gardens Apartments, who recently received notice of an 8.5% rent increase, despite the fact that many renters had lost their jobs or had reduced incomes due to the pandemic.
Funding for the program ($300,000) will come from the federal CARES Act funds, specifically the Community Development Block Grant program.
The program will provide rental assistance grants to income-eligible individuals and families who have been economically impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic through job-loss, furlough, or reduction in hours or pay.
During public comments, several Fullerton renters urged Council to approve the program. Many of them were residents of Palm Gardens. All of them were Latinx, and some were undocumented.
Some said they had lost their jobs due to the pandemic and were ineligible for any government assistance because of their legal status. Undocumented workers generally have taxes deducted from their paychecks but are ineligible for any government assistance.
“My husband lost his job. My hours were reduced. I have 4 girls. We are behind on rent. Support undocumented migrants. We all pay taxes and therefore deserve some assistance,” Maria Sanchez said.
“We are not just affected by rent, but also by health matters. My husband suffers from kidney deficiency. I lost my job. We had to borrow money to pay part of the rent, not even the full rent. It’s a very stressful situation for those of us who don’t have any support because of our legal status,” another speaker said.
“Please help us. The Latino community has been the hardest hit by this pandemic,” Eduardo Martinez said.
“I have lived here for 30 years. I have always worked. I have never asked for government help. But I’ve been laid off now for six weeks because of the pandemic. I feel forced now to ask for help,” Alejandro Ramirez said.
“This financial relief will help me to continue living here in Fullerton. I love Fullerton, my children are in school here. This will help my family and all residents in Fullerton,” a 25-year Fullerton resident said.
“I notice those who were born here just extend their hand and get a check; they get subsidies,” Alma Chavez said. “Please know that God put you here for a reason, you are here to help. I’d be deeply grateful if you take into account all Fullerton residents. I’m not just here to support Palm Gardens, but to support all immigrants and everyone who has lost their job, and all of us who don’t have money right now to pay for our rent.”
Councilmember Ahmad Zahra, who represents District 5, the south part of Fullerton where many of the speakers live, thanked residents for sharing their stories.
“Our unemployment rate is 15% so there’s a lot of struggle out there,” Zahra said.
Councilmember Jesus Silva, who had argued for the failed rent freeze on June 2, spoke in support of the program. “The eye-opening part is to hear from so many who are undocumented, not on assistance, but who have lost their jobs and are working and need help,” Silva said.
Councilmember Bruce Whitaker said, “It’s clearly a worthy use of these funds.”
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