LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — As the city of Los Angeles prepares to begin the process of reopening in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Eric Garcetti Thursday announced additional relief measures for Angelenos struggling to make ends meet.
“We remain focused on the other effect of this pandemic, how devastating it has been to the economic life of Angelenos,” he said.
While the city has already announced that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power would not shut off utilities for nonpayment during the pandemic, Garcetti went a step further Thursday saying that the order would extend through the end of the year.
He also said that there would be no penalties for late payments and that extended payment plans would be offered to those who need them.
“If you can pay your bill, you absolutely should, as your payments help us provide reliable service across the city,” he said. “But if you’re facing financial hardship and you can’t afford to make every bill on time, you won’t have to worry whether the water will come out of the faucet or whether the lights will stay on.”
Garcetti said that all bills must eventually be paid and that the city and DWP were working together to find a suitable timeline for how and when that should happen.
The mayor also announced that a rent freeze on units covered under the city’s rent stabilization ordinance would be extended for one year after the crisis — meaning rents cannot be increased for more than 624,000 units within the city limits for 12 months after the emergency declaration has been lifted.
“This freeze is just one part of our ongoing efforts to help people stay healthy and housed in their time of need,” he said.
Garcetti also announced that he signed into law an ordinance that prohibits landlords from using coercion, intimidation or fraud to take renters’ stimulus checks and provides tenants the ability to legally enforce the protections adopted by the city.
“This measure also requires that landlords provide you with our housing department’s protection notice every time they contact you about your rental agreement during this period,” he said. “The notice must be provided in the language that is predominantly used by the tenant.”
A full list of protections afforded to tenants as a result of the COVID-19 crisis can be found online.
Council President Nury Martinez also spoke at the daily briefing and announced the establishment of the Emergency Renters Assistance Fund, aimed at helping those experiencing extreme financial hardship caused by a severe reduction of work hours or job loss in the wake of the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 renters relief fund will give rent money directly to landlords so that they can meet their financial obligations, and then they can be able to pay their mortgages and we can keep our tenants in their units,” Martinez said.
The city has previously adopted ordinances aimed at protecting jobs of laid-off workers and ensuring adequate paid sick leave for frontline workers.
“We want to do the right thing and we want to be able to protect every single Angeleno,” Martinez said. “We want to be able to focus on people and not corporations, we want to be able to return to our regular lives and we want to be able to get people back to work.”
Garcetti also announced that the Angeleno Card Program had doubled its initial goal, raising $20 million — allowing the city to help 60,000 residents of Los Angeles.