Kern approves $5 million program to prevent eviction and foreclosures

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Kern County approved a $5 million plan to ensure families won’t face eviction or foreclosure during the pandemic.

The program is an allocation of $21 million in COVID relief coming from the state. Families struggling with rent or mortgage can receive up to $5,000.

The requirements to qualify include earning an income of 80 percent below the area’s median income, and you must face eviction or foreclosure.

“We need to do something to assist the public, meeting their needs to not become homeless and not become completely hopeless about the future under the strikingly uncertain times,” said 5th District Supervisor, Leticia Perez.

Housing Authority of Kern director, Stephen Pelz, added, “we can pay back payments through March 2020 and then plan to include funding to support them through December.”

The program would be in partnership with the City of Bakersfield which just passed a similar $5 million program. Individual cities can also chip in with their own funds. 

“I think we can serve anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 households in Kern,” Pelz said.

However, 20,000 households in Kern are in danger of eviction right now according to local nonprofit, Faith in the Valley. 

So while it was a unanimous board vote, and there was general praise for the program, public comments also suggested the amount was not enough.

“Those 20,000 homes need help. The $5 million out of the 21 million is just not enough,” commented Julie Solis.

There were also three additional requests from public comments.

One, add an urgency ordinance to stop landlords from starting the eviction process. Two, expand the program to help with utility payments. Then the third, fully fund a legal counsel to help residents fight evictions. To that, the county pointed to GBLA, the Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance.

The county also hopes to work with the Kern Employers’ Training Resource, which already has a program to help pay for utilities. It also pointed to PG&E and SoCal Edison for utility assistance.

“This is not a $5 million program. The board is authorizing the addition of $5 million into a program that already has $5 million in it from the City of Bakersfield, so it’s much more than five,” said Kern Chief Administrative Officer, Ryan Alsop.

County administrators say they still are working on the application process, but it most likely will be a one-page online form that will be ready by mid-September.

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