By Susie Steimle

OAKLAND (KPIX) — The statewide eviction moratorium is set to expire in 20 days, putting more than one million Californians at risk of losing their homes.

Tenants rights groups want the state to extend AB 91, the law that was intended to pay back 80 percent of unpaid rent from the pandemic with federal and state funds. Tenants say that money isn’t getting into the right hands.

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“We’re all going through the same thing — sleepless nights, getting those notices on the door,” Vanessa Bulnes, an Oakland tenant, said.

Bulnes’ landlord already threatened to evict her once after she lost her job and couldn’t pay rent in March of this year. Since then she’s applied for state rent relief but hasn’t seen a dime.

“It’s like waiting for the rain, it’s not coming, there’s no rain, no funding and I put my application in March 24,” Bulnes said.

Tenants like Bulnes are protected against eviction but, in 20 days, the statewide moratorium lifts.

“There is rent assistance out there. We just need to make sure it gets where it’s supposed to go,” said Jackie Zaneri, a staff attorney with ACCE.

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Zaneri says that getting tenants rent relief has been a bureaucratic mess coupled with serious equity issues. Some tenants she works with don’t even have a computer and many don’t speak English.

“While tenants are waiting, those protections that are supposed to protect them are starting to expire,” Zaneri said.

According to the National Equity Atlas, California’s estimated rent debt is $4.2 billion. 911,000 households are behind on rent. Seventy-eight percent of renters in debt are low income and 76 percent are people of color.

“You should be allowed to go to court to get redress. That is what governs our civilization,” Sid Lakireddy, president of the California Rental Housing Association said.

Lakireddy said he is willing to wait for tenants who can prove they’ve applied for assistance but says he knows of other tenants who have not applied for assistance, are refusing to pay and are abusing the moratorium. He says at some point the housing business needs to be able to reopen too.

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“No other industry has been asked to carry the burden we have been asked to and to continue to ask us to do this after we’ve done it for so long, I believe, is wrong,” Lakireddy said.