The California Apartment Association is calling on Congress to include COVID-19 rental assistance in its next federal relief package.

CAA on Dec. 11 urged its members to echo that request in emails to their representatives in the nation’s capital.

“As the debate over a new COVID-19 relief package proceeds, it’s critical that Congress provide short-term financial assistance for renters,” CAA’s message to Congress says. “This assistance would help them come current on the rent they’ve had to defer and help spare them an avalanche of rent debt in the coming months.”

Rep. Norma Torres

In Washington, D.C., talk of rental assistance in the next COVID relief bill have begun, and U.S. Rep. Norma Torres, a Democrat from the Inland Empire, has introduced the Keep Your Home and Prevent Homelessness Act. The bipartisan plan would invest nearly a half billion dollars into rent and mortgage assistance programs.

“Emergency rental assistance is also essential for mom-and-pop landlords,” says CAA’s message continues. “Without rental income, these small-time rental housing providers are struggling to operate their properties, risk defaulting on their mortgages, and neglect their retirement investments.”

CAA and its members are requesting rent relief as California experiences a new surge in coronavirus cases and stay-at-home orders. The shuttering of businesses that follows will exacerbate existing pandemic-related financial hardships for renters and create new ones.

This latest wave of COVID cases comes less than two months before the Jan. 31 expiration date for California’s COVID-19 eviction moratorium, although state lawmakers this week proposed extending those protections by timeframes ranging from two months to all of 2021. A federal eviction moratorium ordered by the Centers for Disease Control is set to lapse Jan. 1, 2021.

“Without immediate federal assistance, we face a looming eviction and foreclosure crisis that would see a surge in homelessness and cause lasting harm to our communities,” CAA’s message to Congress says.

CAA members also are asking state lawmakers to legislate rent relief, especially as they weigh a possible extension to AB 3088, the statewide eviction moratorium passed by a bipartisan super majority this past August.

“While extending AB 3088 may be necessary, it is critical that any eviction protections be extended only in short increments with clear triggers for either continuing or terminating the protections,” CAA’s message to state legislators says. “And it is essential that any extension of AB 3088 apply uniformly to all rental owners across the state.”