The Bakersfield Californian

A new rental and mortgage assistance program has launched in Kern County, providing those struggling with making payments due to the coronavirus pandemic with up to $5,000 in relief.

The Bakersfield-Kern Regional Homeless Collaborative announced the program had begun on Monday. The Bakersfield City Council and Kern County Board of Supervisors each provided $5 million to fund the program, which is intended to prevent homelessness among families who have lost income or incurred medical bills greater than $1,000 because of COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has upended the lives of many Kern County families and put many of our neighbors at risk of losing their homes,” collaborative Chair and Housing Authority Executive Director Stephen Pelz said in a statement. “Thanks to the city of Bakersfield and county of Kern, our COVID-19 Rent and Mortgage Payment Assistance Programs will help ease some of the instability these households are experiencing, so they can focus on staying safe and healthy.”

Those interested can call 2-1-1 for a referral. The Housing Authority of the County of Kern, Community Action Partnership of Kern and Bakersfield Homeless Center are partnering with the collaborative for the program.

To be eligible, applicants must live within Kern County, pay more than 30 percent of their income toward housing and earn a household income of up to 80 percent of the area’s median income. For a family of four, that equates to $55,900, according to a news release announcing the program launch.

Applicants must also have lost income since March 2020 or incurred medical bills greater than $1,000 that has resulted in their inability to afford rent or mortgage payments. Only those with rental contracts or a mortgage in their name are eligible.

Financial assistance will be paid directly to the recipient’s landlord or mortgage company, the release said. The funds will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.