Board expands COVID-19 rental assistance program

Photo by Tobias Rehbein from Pexels

Restrictions eased for restaurants, other business in San Diego county

THE County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday, January 26 to expand the emergency rental assistance program for San Diegans who have suffered economic hardships due to COVID-19.

The County’s program allows San Diegans who are facing eviction or are unable to pay their rent to apply for financial assistance. Funds can be used to cover rent, utilities and other household expenses.

The expanded program will award funds for up to six months of expenses at a time and applicants can request additional funding if they still require monetary assistance after that time. The emergency rental assistance program would also give priority to single-parent households, many of which have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic’s impact on the economy.

The program is funded by $48.8 million in federal stimulus funds the County received earlier this month. The federal stimulus dollars will cover rental assistance needs for residents living in 16 cities in the County, as well as the unincorporated areas. The cities of San Diego and Chula Vista received their own funds from the federal government and will oversee their rental assistance programs separately.

The Board also voted to work with the state to develop a plan to allow a safe return to youth sports competitions.

Meanwhile, after seven weeks of closures, restaurants, museums, theaters and other businesses can resume outdoor operations immediately under state guidance.

Hair salons, barbershops, nail salons and tattoo parlors can open indoors. Hotels and other lodging can open.

The changes are a result of California health officials’ announcement on Monday, January 25 that the Regional Stay Home Order has been lifted for all regions of the state.

The state’s four-week intensive care unit bed availability projection for the Southern California region, which includes San Diego County, is expected to be above 15%, the threshold that allows regions to exit the order.

“We urged San Diegans to stay at home and most heeded our message,” said Wilma J. Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “Their actions have helped to slow the spread of COVID-19, kept hospitals and health care workers from being completely overwhelmed and, most importantly, saved lives.”

The lifting of the Regional Stay Home Order means that San Diego County is now back in Tier 1, or the Purple Tier, and can return to the rules and framework of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, the color-coded tiers that indicate which activities and businesses are open based on local case rates and test positivity percentage.

The County’s adjusted case rate is currently at 49.6 per every 100,000 residents, which is expected to be reflected on the state’s website tomorrow. The rate is well above the 7.0 case rate that is required to move into the less restrictive Tier 2, or Red Tier. Fifty-four of the 58 California counties are in the strictest level, or Purple Tier.

The region’s 7-day case positivity rate is 14.8%, also well above the 7% needed to move to the Red Tier.

Counties must remain in their current tier for three weeks and post case rates and testing positivity percentage in the higher tier for two weeks before moving into the less restrictive level.

Tier updates are provided weekly on Tuesdays; however, counties can choose to impose stricter rules.

Household gatherings are also now allowed, but they should be limited to no more than three households and the interactions must occur outdoors. People must also keep their distance and wear a mask. The 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew remains in effect.

“The pandemic is not over, people should continue taking the recommended precautions,” Wooten said.

County health officials continue to urge San Diegans to do the following:
• When it’s your turn, get vaccinated;
• Wash your hands;
• Watch your distance around others;
• Wear a mask;
• When sick, stay home and get tested.

The County is currently vaccinating people 65 and older, as well as health care workers in Phase 1A at its vaccination sites. Appointments are required, and vaccinations are available based on supply.

More information is at coronavirus-sd.com/vaccine and appointments can be made at vaccinationsuperstationsd.com.

(Katie Cadiao and Jose A. Alvarez/County of San Diego Communications Office)

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