LA County Covid-19 Rent Relief Lottery
On Monday, Dec. 14, I received an email from LA County saying that I won their rent relief lottery! Hooray! I had been taken off the waitlist and needed to submit an application by Dec. 17.
Not so fast. I returned my application. On reading the property owner forms that I needed to send to my landlord, however, I realized that I would receive $0 in rent relief.
When I applied for the lottery in August, LA County stated that rent relief could be applied to future rent payments. Their rules now state that rent relief will be sent to landlords only for rents unpaid from March through December 2020.
I managed to pay my full rent for all those months, although they have been late since May 2020. My landlord graciously completed and promptly returned the property owner forms to LA County. My landlord actually reduced my rent in August 2020, in light of the circumstances around COVID-19. I received a phone call from LA County on Monday, Dec 21. I explained the situation and was told that I will not receive any rent relief funds under their current rules but that in case their program is constructed differently in the future they will keep my application on file. I have not yet received written confirmation of that statement.
This program is rent relief for landlords, not rent relief for tenants. If tenants managed to get our rent paid by begging from friends, borrowing from family, running up credit card debt, or by skipping meals, we get zero relief. Tenants will try to tap any available resource to get the rent paid because the prospect of becoming homeless is terrifying and the likelihood of obtaining rent relief is very low. This is why tenants will pay 60%, 80% or 90% of our income on rent. After suffering job losses from COVID-19, many of us are paying well over 100% of our reduced income toward rent.
I am aware that federal CARES funds stipulate that payments must be paid to landlords. This program, however, does not help landlords, either, if tenants become unable to pay rents in January 2021. Why is LA County changing the rules in the middle of the program? Is this why they are still taking tenants off the waitlist in December, four months after their lottery? Many, many tenants are probably in the same boat, ineligible for relief under this particular program but still struggling to pay the rent each month.
This is, however, still a step up from the City of Glendale’s COVID-19 rent relief program. In five months, Glendale has managed to disburse a total of 191 rent relief checks of $1,500 each since July, with round two of their lottery to be held in January. In that same time, they have dispensed millions to other COVID-19 relief programs. Congratulations, City of Glendale – at this rate, they’ll manage to disburse their remaining relief funds some time in the fall of 2021, after we have all become homeless.
Imagine … No Religion??
During two different online New Year’s celebrations, I heard artists sing John Lennon’s iconic song “Imagine.” One line in the song goes “Imagine … no religion, too.” While that line may please atheists and skeptics, the actual positive correlations between religious engagement and well-being are overwhelming.
For example, in a meta-study comparing 25 well-established health activities known to improve mortality, such as exercising and eating vegetables, going to church on a regular basis had more protective factor against mortality than 60% of other established health practices. It was comparable to eating fruits and vegetables, and stronger than statin therapy. There are numerous studies along different lines that come to similar conclusions. Going to church on a regular basis is good for us, on multiple levels.
Furthermore, it’s good for communities. For one thing, the most plentiful and consistent source of volunteerism is that provided by religious groups. Going even further, it is good for society. Every major positive social change – think abolition and the civil rights movement – has been either founded on or greatly amplified by religious beliefs and organizations.
If we want the rest of Lennon’s hopeful vision to come true, pray to God that the “no religion” part of his message goes by the wayside.
Robin Litster Johnson