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) — funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act — offered a pathway to clear these debts, preventing eviction and homelessness and making an equitable recovery possible. The program was in operation between March 15, 2021, and March 31, 2022.

In partnership with Housing NOW! and Western Center on Law & Poverty, the National Equity Atlas assessed how well the program met its goal of covering 100 percent of rent debt for all renters living on low incomes who’ve experienced economic hardships during the pandemic.

Update: June 5, 2023

To date, more than 100,000 households are still awaiting a decision on their applications, according to our analysis of program data for tenant rental assistance applications obtained from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). If you're still awaiting a decision on your application to California's Covid-19 rent relief program, a new lawsuit settlement might offer you an opportunity to obtain rent relief. PolicyLink, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE Action), and Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) recently settled their lawsuit against HCD over how it managed the state's Covid-19 rent relief program — Housing Is Key. The settlement agreement will offer a renewed chance for applicants who remain in limbo to receive assistance. 

To learn more about the settlement and what it means for tenants, visit carentrelief.org. If you're a renter in need of immediate assistance, call the local partner network at 833.687.0967 to be connected to a community organization, tenant group, or legal service provider who can help.

Most Recent Analysis


Earlier Analyses


For questions about our findings and methodology, please contact Jennifer Tran at jtran@policylink.org.

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