Examining California’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program

Already shouldering some of the worst housing affordability challenges in the nation, California renters living on low incomes were pummeled by the Covid-19 pandemic. While renters made tremendous sacrifices to keep current on rent, many fell behind. The statewide Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) offered a pathway to clear these debts, preventing eviction and homelessness and making an equitable recovery possible. 

In partnership with Housing NOW! and Western Center on Law & Poverty, the National Equity Atlas team is assessing how well the program is meeting its goals to cover 100 percent of rent debt for all renters living on low incomes who’ve experienced economic hardships during the pandemic. We provide weekly statewide data updates; maintain a dashboard with county, city, and zip code data; and produce regular reports on the program’s performance. Our latest policy recommendations are listed below.

This Week’s Statewide Data Update: June 23, 2022

  • Thus far, 298,850 households have received rental assistance; another 17,401 have been approved, but they are still waiting for their payments to be processed.

  • There are 85,901 renters waiting for their applications to be reviewed: 28,450 are awaiting initial review and 57,451 have applied for additional assistance. The remaining statewide eviction protections for ERAP applicants expire on June 30, and remaining applicants will face eviction.

  • One in three households were facing imminent eviction when they applied. At the time they submitted their application, 161,869 applicants reported receiving an eviction notice or being threatened with eviction by their landlord — an understatement of eviction risk since many renters receive notices while awaiting payment.

  • Of the households whose applications have been reviewed, 33 percent (157,881) have been denied. The vast majority of denied households have incomes low enough to qualify them for the program.

For data at the county, city, and zip code level, explore our dashboard.

Most Recent Analysis


Earlier Analyses

Policy Recommendations

Urgent policy solutions are needed to fulfill the promise of the state’s rental assistance program, prevent more Covid evictions, and make an equitable recovery possible. We recommend that California policymakers: 

  • Ensure the Housing Is Key program covers 100 percent of tenants’ accrued rental debt, including debt incurred after March 31;
  • Extend statewide eviction protections without preempting local ones;
  • Create a fair, transparent process for challenging denials of assistance;
  • Institute a permanent program to support renters across the state who are struggling to get by with low incomes and exorbitant housing costs;
  • Ensure that rental assistance is accessible to people with limited English proficiency, people with disabilities, and people with limited access to technology; and
  • Target rental assistance to communities of color to combat historical patterns of segregation and racial discrimination in housing opportunity.

Explore our full list of detailed policy recommendations.


For questions about our findings and methodology, please contact Sarah Treuhaft at sarah@policylink.org.

For media inquiries, please contact Gabriel Charles Tyler at gabriel@policylink.org.