Helping families in distress
COPA assists Castroville residents applying for rent relief
From Voice of Monterey Bay, SEPTEMBER 3, 2021
In Monterey County, rental assistance is also available to families living in rooms or garages.
| By Luis Arreguín
Every Wednesday for the last month, members of COPA Castroville have been gathering outside Our Lady of Refuge Catholic church for a noble cause. They are helping community members apply for the rental assistance program authorized by the U.S. government that provides relief for the economic struggles families have experienced because of COVID-19.
But it takes more than just setting up tables and computers and getting together every Wednesday afternoon to help farmworkers in distress.
Once Congress approved legislation to provide economic stimulus for families, some organizations like COPA organized community members demanding an eviction moratorium and the allocation of federal funds to help families struggling to pay rent. The problem for Castroville, and other small rural communities in the area, is that rental assistance was approved only for tenants with formal leases. And when it comes to Castroville, the picture of rentals is completely different.
In this North Monterey County town, many tenants live in garages, studios or rooms rented from homeowners who share their houses to get some economic relief themselves. Those agreements between tenants and homeowners are largely verbal and many landlords did not have any intention of signing documents to prove they were renting their properties. In effect, small tenants in this — and other areas where farmworkers live — would not be able to apply for rental assistance.
| Photo by Adriana Molina
COPA, which stands for Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action, held meetings with its different core teams at different locations throughout California and paid attention to the voices demanding help. As a result, rental assistance regulations were modified to include people living in rooms and garages whether or not they had a lease. Once we learned this great news, we immediately started to plan a way to get this assistance to the people in our town.
Mary Rojo, Ady Santana, Isabel Manzo, Tere Simancas, Lidia Serrato, Adriana Molina and I met with Father Pedro Espinoza of Our Lady of Refuge to discuss how the church could get involved in getting the message out for as many people as possible. Espinoza announced at every Mass that COPA would be helping families file the application for rental assistance outside the church each Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. Sometimes, the group would finish around 8 p.m.
We are still providing this support on a weekly basis. As of Sept. 1, about 140 applications have been submitted.
This process at the local level started with a Civic Academy on Zoom one day after a Sunday mass, with Lidia Serrato and Tere Simancas describing the rental assistance program. After sharing stories, regional leaders of COPA such as Arturo Aguila oriented potential applicants on the documents they needed to bring to the church. The Civic Academy on Zoom was a bilingual event at which people affected by COVID-19 narrated how they struggled to keep their jobs and to keep food on the table when they lost their jobs or were temporarily laid off.
| Photo by Adriana Molina
After the Civic Academy, Mary Rojo and Lupita Zamudio prepared flyers to be distributed after Mass at Our Lady of Refuge, and every Wednesday Tere Simancas, Lidia Serrato and I fired up our laptops to input as many applications as possible through the United Way website. Isabel, Ady, Lupita and Mary supported their group by taking pictures of each document, using Adobe Scan to get PDF files which were then submitted to the team in charge of uploading those documents along with the application to the official website.
The work has been completed with an on-site review by an agency in charge of verifying documents and authorizing the disbursement of the funds. Lenin Ramos from Mujeres en Accion and Ana Ibarra from Hartnell College have attended some of these events in Castroville to conduct a thorough review of the applications and guarantee their approval. Some other visitors, such United Way representatives as well as a candidate running for Monterey County supervisor, have visited the booth.
We in COPA Castroville think that we have passed our first test as a new organization and that our journey to become community leaders has just started. The community will have the last word.
For more information about the rental assistance program in Monterey County, visit https://www.unitedwaymcca.org/county-rent-and-utility.
About Luis Arreguín
Luis Arreguín grew up in Querétaro, Mexico, where he worked as a college instructor and a journalist. He immigrated to the United States in 2000. He currently is an adjunct math instructor at Monterey Peninsula College and a US Citizenship teacher for North Monterey County Unified School District.
California IAF Leaders Celebrate Victory
AB832 Applauded for Keeping Families Housed and Rental Assistance Flowing
CALIFORNIA—Today, thousands of leaders across California Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) organizations celebrate the Governor’s and the state lawmakers announced deal to extend the state’s eviction moratorium and rent relief program that was sent to expire June 30, 2021.
The California IAF applauds State leaders for
- Extending the eviction ban to September 30, 2021.
- Paying 100% overdue rent and utilities paid for landlords and tenants.
- Providing up to 18 months of rental assistance for past and future rent
- Allowing either tenants or landlords to receive funds.
- Forestalling evictions until rental assistance applications are attempted.
Click here to register
The violent incursion of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 6 disrespected, demeaned, and threatened the right of every citizen who peaceably engages in the democratic process in our country.
Deliberation, debate, argument, compromise, negotiation; these are the means to advance interests in a democracy. The leaders and organizations of COPA, Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action, an Affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation, the oldest and largest broad based organizing institution in our nation, teach and practice these political skills every day. We vigorously engage on issues that impact our families and travel regularly to state capitals, City Halls, and decision-making chambers to advance these issues. That the buildings and halls of power belong to us is made self-evident in our consistent and persistent presence throughout years of effort. Our work is carried out through hundreds of conversations full of respectful dissent, concession, and sometimes victory; in other words, democratically.
What happened yesterday at the U.S. Capitol not only resulted in the deaths of four individuals and the arrests of dozens of rioters, it also endangered the officials, staff members, and public safety officers who were present. Ultimately it put at risk our democratic institutions by introducing violence to what has, until now, been a tradition of a peaceful transfer of power in our national leadership. To arrive at consent at the point of a gun is the weakest form of power, and our nation was weakened in the eyes of the world on January 6 by the use of violence in place of political debate.
As a network of religious, labor, education and community leaders from all walks of life and all political persuasions, we condemn the acts of insurrection and violence in Washington, D.C., and recall the words of Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address at the conclusion of the Civil War: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan -- to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."
For Immediate Release: December 21, 2020
Monterey County Board of Supervisors Unanimously Approve COPA Proposal
$4.9M allocated for program targeting neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID
Proposal for community-based health workers and coordinated care
Central Coast -- On Monday, December 21, 2020, during a special meeting, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a nearly $5 million six month Community Outreach & Education pilot program that will target the neighborhoods hit the hardest by COVID-19. This program will hire 100 community health workers, or promotorx, trusted people from community-based organizations starting January 1. The trained community health workers will do outreach, prevention education, promote testing, and navigation to support services using a culturally and linguistically appropriate joint problem- solving approach. Essentially, these workers will help educate families, as well as connect people who test positive with needed services, such as temporary housing for quarantine or isolation, cash assistance, food, medical care and information about employment rights. It will use the Census tracts to target the hardest hit communities.
The proposal approved today was created by COPA’s “Breaking the Chain” team, based on more than 2,000 conversations with families in Monterey County impacted by COVID-19. The pilot program is similar to programs in Fresno, Sonoma, and San Diego Counties.
COPA’s 28 member institutions have heard stories about the need for rental assistance, access to testing, tracing, and supported isolation in this time of pandemic, and access to education and distance learning resources. Stories were shared from COPA members on their struggles to live and work in the Monterey Bay Region during this time of the novel Coronavirus.
Many organizations spoke in support of the proposal including Building Healthy Communities, Center for Community Advocacy, California Rural Legal Assistance, the Monterey County Farm Bureau, The Catholic Diocese, the Hospitality Industry Association, and several others.
Founded in 2003, COPA is a broad-based, non-partisan membership organization working on issues affecting our families, neighborhoods, and communities. The 28 member institutions include faith communities, nonprofits, schools, and labor associations from throughout Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties.
Contact: Mayra Bernabe / 831.786.6520 / [email protected]
COPA Civic Academy
Making Greater Progress Together
Sunday, December 13, 2020
from 2:30-4:00 PM
Sundeep K Gupta MD MPH
Open to all COPA member organizations to learn from epidemiologist Dr. Sundeep Gupta his recommendations for how to effectively fight the pandemic. We have invited County Supervisors to hear first hand experiences of how testing, tracing and supported isolation is not working in our community to protect our families, and to ask for their support.
Dr. Gupta is a Medical Epidemiologist and Family Physician who has spent more than 15 years fighting disease outbreaks both domestically and internationally. He has led numerous outbreak responses, including against HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa countries, Ebola in Liberia, Yellow Fever in Uganda, and Salmonella in the United States.
Dr. Gupta trained in Family Medicine at Natividad Medical Center in Salinas, California. He is a fluent Spanish speaker and has worked extensively with Monterey County's farmworker population. Dr. Gupta trained in Tropical Medicine at Tulane University and in 2004, joined CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service program to train as a disease detective. He then went overseas and served as the CDC Country Director in Uganda, Malawi and Zambia. He has published approximately 50 scientific manuscripts on food insecurity among immigrants, community-based primary health care, and disease outbreaks.
COPA Candidates' Accountability Forum on
When: Oct 4, 2020 04:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Candidates Wendy Root Askew and Steve McShane from Monterey County District 4 and John Leopold and Manu Koenig from Santa Cruz County District 1
The Candidates will state their positions on critical issues facing residents of the Monterey Bay area including
Rent Moratoriums; Testing, Tracing and Supported Isolation; and Workforce Development
COPA leads community effort
to extend renter protections and funding for landlords.
Collaboration will prevent homelessness, engage tenants and restore unpaid rent.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 18, 2020:
Contact: Mayra Bernabe / 831.786.6520 / [email protected]
SANTA CRUZ, CA – The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors took two important steps today to respond to the pressure on renters unable to earn a living because of the impact of the pandemic on their jobs and businesses. The Supervisors extended the moratorium on evictions to keep tenants housed while providing funds for landlords to cover missed rent payments.
Speaking in support of the Board’s actions, COPA leader Jorge Savala said, “Families have abided by the government call to shelter-in-place to reduce the spread of Covid-19, bearing the consequence of lost income, only now to be faced with losing the roof over their heads. Today’s decision to extend the moratorium on evictions will help to prevent a new pandemic of homelessness.”
Landlords are also feeling the pinch when rents are unpaid. As a result of meetings with COPA in June, Supervisor’s Leopold and McPherson sponsored a $1 million rental assistance program from CARES Act funds for inclusion in the 2021-22 budget.
Supervisor Leopold, having initiated the original moratorium on evictions at the start of the pandemic, added; “I recognized the severity of the problem in our community and worked hard to find the money to help people during their time of need.”
Nery Garcia, COPA leader, thanked the County Supervisors for including these funds that will flow to landlords to cover missed rent payments by their tenants. “We are all in this together. Landlords can’t pay their bills if tenants can’t pay their rent if they can’t work. COPA also requests that the Board of Supervisors work with us to develop a longer-term solution before the September 30th moratorium expires.”
Supervisor Friend responded affirmatively, requesting the staff explore options for a rental payback program by examining Santa Clara, LA County and Watsonville’s programs. Supervisor Friend declared, “As we await decisions at the federal and state level, we are committed to doing all we can locally to solve this problem. Today I asked County staff to explore a rental payback program and work with COPA to discuss solutions with landlords.” In addition, Supervisor McPherson requested the staff to report by the 2nd week in September with 6-month and 12-month options.
COPA is continuing to engage tenants throughout the county by:
- Organizing Civic Academies to teach tenant rights and responsibilities
- Partnering with the County staff to conduct culturally appropriate outreach and workshops to prepare tenants and landlords for the County’s $1 million rental assistance program application process.
- Collaborating with Supervisors Friend and Coonerty and county staff to develop options for rental payback programs that protect tenants and sustain landlords before the end of the September 30 moratorium.
The Holy Cross Food Pantry saw a ten-fold increase of parishioners and community members needing help when the shelter-in-place order closed businesses, leaving hundreds without work. While supplying food, we also connected parishioners via Zoom calls to teach them about the moratorium on evictions and how to write a letter to their landlord. COPA leaders shared our stories with Supervisors Leopold and McPherson, which inspired them to co-sponsor a $1 million allocation of CARES funding for rental assistance and continue the moratorium on evictions through September 30.
COPA is a broad-based organization consisting of member institutions. We are an organization of institutions, not individuals. Individuals come and go, but institutions such as churches, congregations, synagogues, schools, unions, and membership-based nonprofits are vessels of relationships among people with shared values of faith, democracy, solidarity and traditions of mutual obligation within the life of a community. We organize across institutions to bring together a diverse cross-section of the region, rich and poor, immigrant and citizen, English-speakers and Spanish-speakers, and people of any creed and race. Individual institutions have limited power to change the social, economic and political constraints on their families, but collectively, a mix of institutions can organize around mutual interests to achieve change for the common good.