A member of the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America decorates his car with signs calling for the cancellation of rent in Long Beach. The protest caravan traveled through East Long Beach on Sunday, April 5, 2020. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

Qualifying Long Beach renters will soon be able to apply for a program that will pay up to $1,000 to their landlords for 3 months as the city works to prop up residents and landlords who are struggling to pay bills due to the COVID-19 economic shutdown.

The $5 million program, which will mirror a program adopted by Los Angeles County, will draw funding from state and federal sources that would have otherwise gone toward investment in underserved communities.

To qualify, residents have to prove they were impacted by COVID-19 through reduced hours or becoming unemployed. They also will have to fall into certain income thresholds, for example earning less than $63,100 for a single-person household or less than $118,950 for a household of 8 people.

The council could have chosen to lower the payment amount from $1,000 per month in an effort to help more residents, but opted to go with the staff’s recommendation of keeping it line with the county’s program. It’s projected that the program will be able to help about 1,700 households.

“It will help a lot of renters but it will help a lot of housing providers, property owners who are behind on their mortgages as well,” said Councilman Al Austin, who originally requested the city look into creating the program earlier this year.

The program was recently bolstered by an additional $300,000 in county funds that was diverted to the Long Beach program by County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who represents Long Beach. City officials did not rule out expanding the program in the future if more funding is secured and the pandemic continues to cause economic hardship.

While the council did vote unanimously to approve the program, there were some brief discussions of lowering the payments to help reach all potential applicants.

Councilwoman Stacy Mungo proposed cutting in half the monthly payments to be able to help out the entire anticipated applicant pool with hopes that the city could then make additional payments to their landlords if it receives additional funding in the future.

“If I were one of the applicants I would rather receive 50% of the money than a 50/50 chance of getting zero,” Mungo said.

Application materials will be made available on the city’s development services website on June 29, with applications being accepted starting on July 13. The application window will close on July 27.

Because the city is expecting more applications for the program than it can help, the city will implement a lottery system to randomly select qualifying applicants. The first payments to be made through the program are expected to be made in August.

The program will be open to all qualifying Long Beach households, including undocumented residents.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.