SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — Over the course of the last year and a half, East San Jose residents have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19  — many struggling to pay their rent while others fear eviction. 

To help, the city’s housing department plans to open an eviction help center in East San Jose at the Franklin McKinley School District in an effort to assist low-income residents with rental and utility relief, legal services, and other social service referrals. 

“The city has really shifted to a COVID-19 recovery and we’ve received funding from the American Rescue Plan to help with rental assistance,” said Ragan Henninger, deputy director of the city’s housing department. 

The city’s housing department estimates approximately 27,000 households in San Jose are behind on rent since the pandemic began in some way or another. 

The eviction help center is the latest effort by the city to reach neighborhoods and communities that have been most impacted by COVID-19. 

“Often they’re communities of color, they’re lower-income, and so we want to have a presence in East San Jose that has been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19,” said Henninger. 

“We want to have a presence in that community to make it easy for people to access these rental assistance funds.”

East San Jose residents have felt the impacts of the pandemic more than other parts of the city. 

According to Santa Clara County data, East San Jose continues to record some of the highest rates of COVID-19 cases in the entire county. 

San Jose Planning Commission Chair, Rolando Bonilla, who represents East San Jose tells KRON4 News he commends the city’s efforts to open an eviction help center in the community but that the effort is only a temporary solution. 

“It’s definitely an appreciated band-aid for the moment but I say band-aid because throughout the pandemic what was very clearly demonstrated was that East San Jose has strategically left behind for generations,” said Bonilla. 

“The reality is that we are so behind in terms of resources and investment that these types of opportunities must have a much larger economic plan behind them.”

San Jose residents struggling to pay rent are protected until after Sept. 30 thanks to the extension of the eviction moratorium passed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last month. 

But Bonilla adds that the city needs to invest into East San Jose by financially supporting small businesses to be able to support local economic growth. 

“I’ve been very clear, East San Jose needs a minimum of $30 million just to get us past the issues we’ve dealt with with the pandemic and not taking into account the generational issue,” said Bonilla. 

“For me, although that band-aid is helpful to families today if you actually invested into the infrastructure of East San Jose then you wouldn’t have families needing those services right now.”

The housing department is also hosting pop-up booths with rental assistance and eviction help, and aim to make the process to receive help a smoother one. 

Additionally, a permanent eviction help center is located downtown on the first floor of City Hall. 

The eviction help center in East San Jose will be up and running sometime this week. 

To learn more about the housing department and its efforts to help residents struggling to pay their rent, visit their website