A state application portal went live Monday for tenants and landlords seeking rental relief grants relating to pandemic hardship — part of a $2.6 billion federally funded aid program in California to help address lost income from the last year, and protect tenants in danger of homelessness.

Landlords can apply for back rent owed to them, or tenants who experienced financial hardship in the last 12 months and who owe back rent can apply themselves — but it behooves landlords to do this to get the maximum grant. Under the program, landlords can receive 80% of back rent owed since April 1, 2020, providing that they agree to forgive the other 20%. Tenants, on the other hand, can only receive 25% of rent owed, which is the minimum to avoid eviction under the current state moratorium, which expires in July.

"Whether it’s a health-related event or a significant financial hardship, COVID-19 has affected us all," the state says on its website. "As our state continues to recover, we are committed to keeping families housed and recognize that California renters and landlords have enough to worry about. We want to make sure that past due rent isn’t one of them."

The California state portal is here, and it prompts applicants who live in any of a list of cities and counties to use their specific portals, if they are administering their own programs. In the Bay Area, the counties of Alameda, Marin, and Sonoma are administering the rental relief funds themselves.

As KQED reports, it's not known how much back rent may be owed by tenants across the state, but it's estimated to be between $400 million and $2 billion. And the $2.6 billion in funding comes as a result of Senate Bill 91, which passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Newsom in January.

The program requires tenants to submit proof of their financial hardship — including unemployment claims, proof of job termination, etc. — and to prove that they make less than 80% of area median income (AMI). Grants will reportedly be prioritized for those making less than 50% AMI.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and are not first-come, first-served, as NBC Bay Area reports.

Photo: Parker Gibbons