POD Pilot 2 enrollment begins
By Sam Catanzaro
Starting November 4 the City of Santa Monica has begun accepting registrations for the Preserving Our Diversity (POD) pilot program. The POD program provides financial assistance to very low-income, long-term Santa Monica senior renters to help cover their basic needs. Council approved the $2 million expansion of the program this summer to assist an additional 250 to 400 seniors.
The cash-based assistance aims to help households achieve a minimum amount of monthly after-rent income of $700 for a one-person household or $1,225 for a two-person household. To be eligible for the program, one must be a senior aged 65 or older and have lived in a Santa Monica rent-controlled apartment since before January 1, 2000. In addition, recipients must have an annual household income less than or equal to $36,550 for a one-person household or $41,800 for a two-person household.
Pilot 1 of the program began providing direct assistance in November 2017 and concluded in January 2019. According to Andy Agle, Director of Housing and Economic Development for Santa Monica’s Housing Division, during the 14 months, 22 participants were enrolled. After Pilot 1, 17 participants remained enrolled and 5 participants exited the program. Three participants remain housed in the City and are now assisted through voucher programs, one participant moved to another city and one participant passed away.
Under the new Pilot 2, recalculation of assistance will occur when a household reports that their income has increased or decreased by more than $200 per month, or if a household’s rent has increased by more than $100. However, an annual reexamination of a household’s income and recalculation of assistance is not part of Pilot 2, with the City saying it is too labor-intensive and additional staffing would be needed to implement annual reexaminations and recalculations.
Under Pilot 2, readjustments based on household income will take place after five years. While the Council approved Pilot 2 unanimously over the summer, at the time Councilmember Sue Himmelrich expressed concern that not annually reexamining a household’s income could have negative consequences if a recipient’s income decreases or if they are hit with a medical bill not covered by insurance.
“I work in these issues all the time and there are small shifts that change people’s lives and put them out on the streets and that is why I am concerned about that procedure,” Himmelrich said.
This concern was also echoed by Danielle Charney, who participated in Pilot 1.
“The amounts being suggested to trigger an adjustment are so unreasonable, that the already depressed seniors living in poverty will see little in the way of joy or hope much less food by the third year,” Charney said.
Registration will remain open for interested seniors to register. Following registration, only those who meet the eligibility criteria will receive an application from the City. All applications submitted to the City will be placed on a waitlist. Applicants will then be selected by lotteries for enrollment on a rolling basis over the next year.
Regular workshops will be held to help with the registration and application process. The first two will be held on November 6, 2019 in the morning and afternoon, at Virginia Avenue Park from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Santa Monica Main Library from 6 – 8 p.m.
For additional information or visit www.santamonica.gov/pod.