The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to use $10 million in federal CARES Act funding to establish an emergency legal defense fund to protect renters from eviction amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Council President Nury Martinez and Councilman Mitch O’Farrell co-introduced the proposal last week and Councilman Paul Koretz co-signed on Tuesday.

Los Angeles implemented a 12-month rent payback period in March, which would begin after the Safer at Home orders are lifted, as well as an eviction moratorium.

However, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a five-month extension Monday night to measures aimed at preventing tenants from being evicted for missing rent due to hardships caused by COVID-19, and that bill — AB 3088 — supersedes local authority, council members said.

“These are people who are struggling to stay above water — many are immigrants, Latinos, Black and low-income residents who have been hardest hit by COVID-19,” Martinez said. “People have lost family members, are sick themselves or lost their jobs. They desperately need our help.”

Martinez said the City Attorney’s Office is still working on an analysis of the bill for the council, which O’Farrell said he hopes the council will discuss further.

Although the City Council voted on Tuesday to extend the emergency COVID-19 orders — which include the eviction moratorium — through the end of September, California courts were expected to accept filings for evictions on Tuesday. Rich Coca, a spokesperson for Martinez, said landlords could still file for the proceedings even though the city’s law keeps action from happening through September.

The council members in their motion said they expect a “swell of unlawful detainers” related to eviction proceedings when the courts reopen.

According to a report the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy published in late May, at least 365,000 households in Los Angeles County were in jeopardy of losing their homes once protections end.

“This City Council continues to do more than any other municipality in the country to protect renters during the COVID-19 pandemic,” O’Farrell said. “The $103 million Renter Assistance Program was a good start, and now we are ensuring that anyone who may be facing an unlawful eviction will have the necessary legal counsel, paid by the city, to help keep people in their homes during this crisis.”

The City Council approved several emergency measures in March intended to help people through the coronavirus pandemic, including the halt on residential and commercial evictions, requiring paid sick leave for certain employees and protections for people who are working for businesses deemed essential.

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