From Boston to San Jose, new initiatives help thousands of renters face COVID-19. But low funding, poor tenants’ protections, and overwhelmed systems have housing advocates worried the programs are falling short.

THE APPEAL - On April 1, Mayra Molina didn’t have the $2700 she needed to pay rent. When the novel coronavirus started spreading in Boston, the families that employ her as a housekeeper called one after another to tell her not to come to work. Her two sons, with whom she shares her East Boston apartment, had their construction jobs canceled, too. 

When Molina heard that the city was launching a rent assistance program, she hoped it would help her cover next month’s rent, at least. But she has gotten no response since she applied weeks ago. Because she’s undocumented, she’s not eligible for the stimulus check, nor for unemployment benefits. The situation is causing her insomnia and severe anxiety, which spikes her blood pressure, she told the Appeal: Political Report. When she went to a clinic, a counselor told her  not to worry about the rent, she said. “Well, that’s what worries us all, I think.”

Molina is one of the 31 percent of Americans who couldn’t pay rent at the beginning of this month. With more than 22 million having lost their jobs in the last four weeks, that number is likely to be even higher on May 1. 

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