By Antonio R. Harvey | Sacramento OBSERVER

As rent and utility moratoriums end and many low-income Sacramento residents face evictions, utility shutoffs and other hardships, the  Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA) is easing its process to apply for aid.

SHRA announced it is “continuously” accepting online applications for the Sacramento Emergency Rental Assistance (SERA2) program. SERA2 is designed to assist low-income renters who have been unable to meet rent and utility payments during the COVID-19 pandemic. The county-city agency has dispersed $13.7 million among 2,700 households as of June 1.

“Once those (moratoriums) lift, people will still have these huge amounts of debt that they owe because they lost their jobs, contracted COVID-19, or had a decrease in income,” SHRA executive director La Shelle Dozier told The OBSERVER. “We have been working fiercely to get the whole system up in place and running, and get the program to do the level of outreach so that people know that this is available to them.”

Tenants can apply themselves or have a landlord do so on their behalf.

The first round of applications opened at the end of last year when SHRA received funding for the program through the city and county. When the state and federal governments provided more money through stimulus packages, SHRA was able to reopen the application process May 11. Ms. Dozier said the continuous application period eases the pressure of meeting a deadline.

Applicants must currently rent in the Sacramento County and meet the following household gross annual income thresholds: $48,350 for a single person; $55,250 for a two-person household; $62,150 for three; $69,050 for four; $74,600 for five; $80,100 for six; $85,650 for seven; and $91,150 for eight.

At least one household member must qualify for unemployment benefits, or have experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19. A demonstration of housing instability or a risk of being unhoused is also an applicant consideration. All applications are placed in a computerized random order. Priority will go to households that owe rental arrears.

Ms. Dozier said applicants can be in various living situations, including mobile homes, “just as long as they are in a rental situation and have a lease.” She added that SERA2 will pay back-rent from March 2020 to March 2021 and that it can offer assistance with utility payments as well.

The program also offers financial opportunities to allow people in distressed situations to get ahead after their March 2021 bills are paid.

To be eligible for assistance with rent and utilities for April through June of this year, applicants must have 2021 household gross annual income at or below the following thresholds: $50,750 for one person; $58,000 for two people; $65,250 for three; $72,500 for four; $78,300 for five; $84,100 for six; $89,900 for seven; and $95,700.

“It’s really a great program and that’s why it’s so important that people understand that it is here and available for them,” Ms. Dozier said.