Silicon Valley officials, tech giants launch program to help residents pay rent

A group of local government, business and philanthropic leaders have launched a program that will help pay rent for low-income residents in Santa Clara County who have had their lives financially upended by the coronavirus.

The program, part of the Santa Clara County Homelessness Prevention System, is being led by Sacred Heart Community Service, which has offered funds to families on the brink of homelessness to keep them housed.

But the announcement Monday marks an influx in funding, primarily by Silicon Valley tech companies, including Cisco, Western Digital, Adobe, Zoom Video Communications Inc., Broadcom, Micron, Facebook, Infosys, Silver Lake and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE).

“As I’ve been making phone calls over the last several weeks, time and time again from CEOs from great companies … what I continue to hear from them is, ‘We are hurting, we are struggling, we are trying to figure out how to keep everyone on board, but we are in,’” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said Monday during a news conference.

In addition, Silicon Valley Community Foundation CEO Nicole Taylor on Monday said the group would contribute $250,000 to the fund and elected leaders in Santa Clara County and San Jose are set to vote Tuesday on proposals to add an additional $2 million each.

About $11 million has been raised for the program, said Jennifer Loving, CEO at Destination: Home, one of the primary philanthropic partners pushing the program forward.

“I have been really sick for 10 days and if I didn’t have a safety net of my own ability to have paid sick time and vacation time, then I would quickly be in trouble,” she said. “We are asking people who are often lower paid, who are often hourly, to remain on the front lines right now. We have to support the infrastructure of our community.”

Families making 80 percent or less than the area median income in the county who have lost income due to COVID-19 are eligible for funding through the program. That means a single-person household making up to $72,750 would qualify or a family of four making $103,900 or less would qualify.

A breakdown of the income brackets to qualify for the new renter assistance program.

Cities drive their own efforts

In addition, cities across Silicon Valley have implemented their own measures to help residents.

Similar to the fund launched Monday, Mountain View city leaders last week approved a $500,000 program to offer money to renters making up to 120 percent of the area median income who are impacted by COVID-19.

That means single-resident households will qualify if they earn $110,000 or less, and a household of four could earn up to $158,000 annually to qualify.

“Mountain View will continue to work closely with community partners, including potential funders, to explore additional efforts to support members of our community, as well as continuing to seek emergency funds from county, state and federal sources,” city leaders said in a statement Friday. “This includes evaluating options to assist our local businesses.”

San Jose has halted evictions for renters who have trouble making rent if they can document their income has been impacted by COVID-19. Over the weekend, the city announced a new website dedicated to the program, which is set to expire in mid-April. The city has also relaxed parking and ticketing restrictions.

Elected officials are currently discussing a paid sick leave proposal that would give workers up to 80 hours of paid sick time annually, up from the 24 hours that California law requires today.

Next door, Santa Clara officials have outlawed utility shutoffs and stepped up the city’s senior meals program to ensure residents over the age of 60 have food. The city last week declared a state of emergency to beef up its response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak that has claimed 13 lives in Santa Clara County so far.

“We need to look into how we can get food to the neediest people in our community that could be very hungry through these days,” Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor said during a meeting last week. “If anyone’s been to the grocery store lately, it’s a battle out there.”

Follow along with San José Spotlight’s real-time coronavirus coverage on our LIVE BLOG here.

Contact Janice Bitters at janice@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

Editor’s Note: Jennifer Loving, CEO of Destination: Home, serves on San Jose Spotlight’s Board of Directors. 

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