Orange County's rent assistance program draws thousands of applicants

It’s the first of the month and rent is due.  With the COVID-19 pandemic drying up Erick Comellas’s business, Orange County’s rent assistance program seemed like a beacon of hope. 

“I started applying for the rent assistance program as soon as I saw it being just shared on Facebook,” said Comellas.

That was a week ago Monday. He says he kept calling and calling. 

“The next message I got was all the slots are gone for the day please call back the next day. I called back the next day all morning. In total, it was 138 times that I called that day, and I’d been trying since the day before,” Comellas said. 

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Once the online application became available, he says he filled that out. 

“I received their email confirmation right away.  Automated, we thank you will be contacted on your next business day to screen your eligibility,” Comellas said.

It’s now been more than a week. 

“I have not heard back from anybody,” Comellas said. 

A spokesperson for Orange County tells FOX 35 News that, as of Wedesday morning, they had received more than 27,000 rent assistance applications, both online and by phone. Sixty employees are working on this who have called 4,000 applicants, set 200 appointments a week for the upcoming weeks, asking that applicants be patient.  Easier said than done, said Comellas. 

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“I just kind of gave up on trying to get the kind of assistance they were promoting.”

He unexpectedly landed a few freelance jobs at the last minute helping him scrape enough money together for this month’s rent.  But he’s already worried about May’s rent. 

“There’s got to be so many people in the same position as me, out of work,” Comellas said.

The county's application process closed at 5 p.m. on April 1, 2020.