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Supervisor: Federal relief, mediation needed to avoid large scale evictions in Santa Clara County

'Things are going to get a lot worse in the next 60 to 90 days,' Dave Cortese says

A bicyclist rides past the Park Plaza apartments at 195 Page Mill Road in Palo Alto. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

Delays in the Senate over a new stimulus package will likely have detrimental effects in Santa Clara County, said county Supervisor Dave Cortese.

The expiration on Aug. 1 of the $600 weekly supplemental unemployment benefits from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act leaves thousands of families unable to continue covering rent, likely increasing the homelessness surge in the county.

That, combined with the eviction moratorium set to expire at the end of the month, puts over 43,000 renters in Santa Clara County at risk of eviction, according to a study by Working Partnerships USA.

This is roughly 16 times the number of evictions in a typical year and could lead to a 225 percent increase in homelessness in the county, according to the 2020 study.

"It's important to see these numbers, it is certainly an eye opener," Cortese said. "On the other hand, I wasn't too surprised … There is no way you have such high unemployment and not have some kind of train wreck in terms of ability to pay."

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Between March 15 and May 30, over 20,000 working people in Santa Clara County filed claims for unemployment insurance or pandemic unemployment assistance. There are still thousands more, including 95,000 undocumented residents, who don't qualify for benefits, according to the study.

The CARES Act and the eviction moratorium were temporary solutions that helped lighten the impacts, Cortese said.

And while the county is likely to extend the eviction moratorium, which allows tenants to delay payments without risk of eviction, tenants will still have to pay rent. Three months of back rent in the county could amount to $7,000.

Constitutionally, the county could implement rent forgiveness, but it would require taking on the financial burden from those tenants.

"Legally we have the option to tell landlords not to collect but they have the right to come back to us and say, 'fine then you have to pay it'," Cortese said. "These numbers would quickly bankrupt the city of San Jose or our county if that was to occur... It would make our county insolvent pretty quickly and our county is already looking at a $300 million deficit."

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Cortese said the strongest form of relief can only and will need to be from the federal government because local governments do not have the financial ability to support this type of economic impact.

City and county governments are set up to provide social services and cannot run a deficit without balancing their budgets, unlike the federal government.

What the county can do in this situation is augment social services so that residents get cash payments or food stamps, propose a tax for COVID-19 relief and extend the eviction moratorium, among other creative solutions.

"Cash payments, food stamps, things like that are not enough, not only is it not enough to live, but it's typically not enough to live in a dignified fashion. So yeah, we are pretty scared. This is a really serious situation," Cortese said.

In July, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez proposed a half cent or five-eighths cent sales tax that would last five years to secure funding for COVID-19 relief. However it did not get enough votes.

"We have an obligation to work with every level of government to try to resolve this issue so people can stay in their homes," Chavez said. "What is really called for is more support, particularly at a federal level."

Cortese is also looking at developing a plan that would bring tenants and landlords together to compromise and create plans to make both parties whole.

"If you don't create or institutionalize a way for people to mediate people's problems before they become legal disputes then you end up mediating them later in the courtroom," Cortese said.

The county already has some institutional mediation programs like one in the Office of Human Relations, which is essentially a neighborhood mediation program. The city of San Jose also has a housing mediation program.

"It makes more sense to expand existing mediation programs in the county and city to take on a much higher volume and get people to start signing agreements," Cortese said. "This is better than going to court where tenants who are not legally proficient may get taken advantage of."

Chavez said there are "no bad guys in this," because landlords and tenants are both victims of the pandemic. Instead, there needs to be solutions that work for both parties.

"Every time you hear local officials say, 'we need the HEROES Act to pass' it is likely because of this problem and that makes sense because it is sort of a bipartisan issue," Cortese said. HEROES is short for Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act.

"Even if you're a conservative Republican businessperson you might be trying to protect the landlord and therefore you would say 'let's put some money for the landlords' in this bill which would still help the tenant because it displaces a need for the tenant to pay rent."

With some eviction moratoriums across the country close or already at their expiration, Cortese predicts the United States will be seeing millions of residents become homeless at the same time.

"Things are going to get a lot worse in the next 60 to 90 days," he said.

"That's the one thing I can tell you is very predictable and probably without dispute at this point," Cortese said. "Economic hardship beyond anything that most people in this community have experienced is going to set in in the next 60 to 90 days. It's just a question of how much federal relief we are going to get to mitigate that."

The Senate has not voted on the $3 trillion HEROES Act and instead Republicans have introduced their own version of a stimulus package called the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability and Schools Act, which has a budget of $1 trillion, nearly half the budget of the CARES Act. Benefits differ significantly among each stimulus package.

For example, under the HEALS Act, unemployment benefits will start at $200 a week through September and then increase to $500 a week until the end of the year. The HEROES Act will extend the $600 weekly benefits until January 2021, and for gig workers, independent contractors and part-time employees, benefits could be extended until March 2021.

The Senate has a week to push through a bill before it is set to go to a monthlong summer break on Aug. 7.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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Supervisor: Federal relief, mediation needed to avoid large scale evictions in Santa Clara County

'Things are going to get a lot worse in the next 60 to 90 days,' Dave Cortese says

by /

Uploaded: Tue, Aug 4, 2020, 12:28 pm

Delays in the Senate over a new stimulus package will likely have detrimental effects in Santa Clara County, said county Supervisor Dave Cortese.

The expiration on Aug. 1 of the $600 weekly supplemental unemployment benefits from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act leaves thousands of families unable to continue covering rent, likely increasing the homelessness surge in the county.

That, combined with the eviction moratorium set to expire at the end of the month, puts over 43,000 renters in Santa Clara County at risk of eviction, according to a study by Working Partnerships USA.

This is roughly 16 times the number of evictions in a typical year and could lead to a 225 percent increase in homelessness in the county, according to the 2020 study.

"It's important to see these numbers, it is certainly an eye opener," Cortese said. "On the other hand, I wasn't too surprised … There is no way you have such high unemployment and not have some kind of train wreck in terms of ability to pay."

Between March 15 and May 30, over 20,000 working people in Santa Clara County filed claims for unemployment insurance or pandemic unemployment assistance. There are still thousands more, including 95,000 undocumented residents, who don't qualify for benefits, according to the study.

The CARES Act and the eviction moratorium were temporary solutions that helped lighten the impacts, Cortese said.

And while the county is likely to extend the eviction moratorium, which allows tenants to delay payments without risk of eviction, tenants will still have to pay rent. Three months of back rent in the county could amount to $7,000.

Constitutionally, the county could implement rent forgiveness, but it would require taking on the financial burden from those tenants.

"Legally we have the option to tell landlords not to collect but they have the right to come back to us and say, 'fine then you have to pay it'," Cortese said. "These numbers would quickly bankrupt the city of San Jose or our county if that was to occur... It would make our county insolvent pretty quickly and our county is already looking at a $300 million deficit."

Cortese said the strongest form of relief can only and will need to be from the federal government because local governments do not have the financial ability to support this type of economic impact.

City and county governments are set up to provide social services and cannot run a deficit without balancing their budgets, unlike the federal government.

What the county can do in this situation is augment social services so that residents get cash payments or food stamps, propose a tax for COVID-19 relief and extend the eviction moratorium, among other creative solutions.

"Cash payments, food stamps, things like that are not enough, not only is it not enough to live, but it's typically not enough to live in a dignified fashion. So yeah, we are pretty scared. This is a really serious situation," Cortese said.

In July, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez proposed a half cent or five-eighths cent sales tax that would last five years to secure funding for COVID-19 relief. However it did not get enough votes.

"We have an obligation to work with every level of government to try to resolve this issue so people can stay in their homes," Chavez said. "What is really called for is more support, particularly at a federal level."

Cortese is also looking at developing a plan that would bring tenants and landlords together to compromise and create plans to make both parties whole.

"If you don't create or institutionalize a way for people to mediate people's problems before they become legal disputes then you end up mediating them later in the courtroom," Cortese said.

The county already has some institutional mediation programs like one in the Office of Human Relations, which is essentially a neighborhood mediation program. The city of San Jose also has a housing mediation program.

"It makes more sense to expand existing mediation programs in the county and city to take on a much higher volume and get people to start signing agreements," Cortese said. "This is better than going to court where tenants who are not legally proficient may get taken advantage of."

Chavez said there are "no bad guys in this," because landlords and tenants are both victims of the pandemic. Instead, there needs to be solutions that work for both parties.

"Every time you hear local officials say, 'we need the HEROES Act to pass' it is likely because of this problem and that makes sense because it is sort of a bipartisan issue," Cortese said. HEROES is short for Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act.

"Even if you're a conservative Republican businessperson you might be trying to protect the landlord and therefore you would say 'let's put some money for the landlords' in this bill which would still help the tenant because it displaces a need for the tenant to pay rent."

With some eviction moratoriums across the country close or already at their expiration, Cortese predicts the United States will be seeing millions of residents become homeless at the same time.

"Things are going to get a lot worse in the next 60 to 90 days," he said.

"That's the one thing I can tell you is very predictable and probably without dispute at this point," Cortese said. "Economic hardship beyond anything that most people in this community have experienced is going to set in in the next 60 to 90 days. It's just a question of how much federal relief we are going to get to mitigate that."

The Senate has not voted on the $3 trillion HEROES Act and instead Republicans have introduced their own version of a stimulus package called the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability and Schools Act, which has a budget of $1 trillion, nearly half the budget of the CARES Act. Benefits differ significantly among each stimulus package.

For example, under the HEALS Act, unemployment benefits will start at $200 a week through September and then increase to $500 a week until the end of the year. The HEROES Act will extend the $600 weekly benefits until January 2021, and for gig workers, independent contractors and part-time employees, benefits could be extended until March 2021.

The Senate has a week to push through a bill before it is set to go to a monthlong summer break on Aug. 7.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

Gary
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Aug 4, 2020 at 7:37 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 7:37 pm
6 people like this

The County Board of Supervisors will surely extend its version of an "eviction moratorium" before September 1. But there is a different barrier to evictions in California. The state judicial council. which enacts rules for the state court system, has an interim rule that the court clerks in our 58 counties are not to issue what's called a "summons" on an eviction ("unlawful detainer") lawsuit until 90-days after the end of the currently declared emergency. What that means is that eviction lawsuits can be filed but they cannot be served on tenants and so need not be answered. Nor are unlawful detainer cases otherwise processed after filing. So evictions - which require a lawsuit and then a court order to be executed by county sheriffs - are not currently available in California with an exception concerning tenants creating a health or safety issue. Lawsuits for breach of the rental contract (such as for not paying rent) can be filed, served and pursued in search of a money judgment. But not for eviction. That then changes the basis for negotiation between landlords and tenants. Tenants have some leverage. Of course, tenants should keep up with all rent payments if they can - especially in Mountain View where most existing apartment tenants are protected from big rent increases by city rent control. You don't want to aggravate your landlord or ever get evicted when the emergency subsides.


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Aug 4, 2020 at 9:32 pm
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 9:32 pm
Like this comment

Again,

It looks like all politicians are trying to make it appear they have an resemblance of control over our situation.

The mere idea that politics has any power over this disease is ridiculous.

And people complaining that giving enhanced unemployment has any measurable factor compared to the impact of the disease is insane. The REALITY is that there is no acceptable level of disease of death has to be accepted. Thus AGAIN, why hasn't the system been put on stasis yet is beyond me.

Failure to act quickly and effectively has created more loss in business value, more job losses, more businesses to die, and the likelihood of a greater depression than what we experienced in the 20th century.

The REALITY is that once we had to deal with a pandemic, all standard ideas regarding business practice, trends, behaviors, and remediation were made absolutely useless. You cannot STIMULATE an economy during a pandemic, it is not possible.


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Aug 6, 2020 at 5:52 pm
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Aug 6, 2020 at 5:52 pm
Like this comment

So last week we had 167,000 new hires.

We lost 1,100,000 jobs that same week.

Please refer to the webpage titled " These Charts Put the Historic U.S. Job Losses in Perspective " (Web Link)

That is about twice the job losses we had in the peak period of great recession which was about 600,000 to 700,000 a week.

We lost only about 2.6 million during the peak period of 4 weeks during that disaster, it took to 2016 to recover the jobs from that crisis, that was 9 years.

During this crisis we lost 22,000,000 jobs in a 4 week period. If we try to recover all the jobs like the last time it will take perhaps 80-90 years.

When is everyone going to wake up that this is not fixable via a STIMULUS package, We have to go on LIFE SUPPORT mode now until the COVID crisis is over, and it is better to freeze all money for the time being, thereby all businesses will not have bills to pay along with the people. That is a fair process isn't it?


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