IMPERIAL COUNTY — Through the end of September, renters facing hardship due to COVID-19 can’t be evicted from their homes in the unincorporated areas of Imperial County.
But that does not excuse not paying rent, said County Counsel Adam Crook at the July 7 Imperial County Board of Supervisors meeting.
A previous ordinance doing the same thing expired June 30, and at the July 7 meeting the county board voted 4-0 for an urgency ordinance to prohibit pandemic-related evictions through Sept. 30. Chairman Luis Plancarte had left the meeting early and wasn’t able to vote on the ordinance.
The ordinance was not approved without concerns by District 5 Supervisor Raymond Castillo, who spoke of a call he received from an Imperial property owner living in Hemet who would face financial hardship if the ordinance were to pass. He cautioned the board to think of both the renters and property owners, as well as asking staff how it is confirmed that renters are facing COVID-19-related hardships.
It is the responsibility of the tenant to provide forms that prove there is substantial economic hardship from something like furloughs, losing a job, medical expenses related to the pandemic, or reduced hours, Crook said. And while the local ordinance is more comprehensive than the state’s current rules, there are still state and court rulings that include some of these regulations.
The county ordinance does include a 120-day period where landlords cannot assess late fees or penalties on rent for those impacted by the pandemic, but that doesn’t excuse not paying rent, Crook added.
In other county news, staff from the Area Agency on Aging, Workforce and Economic Development, Department of Social Services, Behavioral Health Services and the Public Health Department presented how they have responded with additional services and sometimes new services to help those in need during COVID-19. This has involved making sure vulnerable groups of people like the elderly receive meals, medical supplies and even wellness checks.
While staff took time to update the board on efforts being made, some asked for more transparency when it comes to COVID-19.
Two representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, San Diego and Imperial Counties, spoke to the board during public comment, including Crystal Quezada, senior community advocate for the local ACLU group.
“We continue to call on the county to share with the public additional demographic data associated with COVID-19 testing, confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” she said. “Data collection is essential. We cannot manage what we do not measure.” She added that she sees a disproportionate impact on people of color, especially Latino and Black communities.