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Santa Monica Housing Office - POD FAQs

GENERAL 

What is the Preserving Our Diversity program? 

Many long-term Santa Monica senior renters living on fixed income are at risk of being displaced because they’re not able to afford basic needs like rent, utilities, food, medical care, and transportationThe Preserving Our Diversity (POD) program strives to help these residents remain in our community by providing monthly cash assistance in the form of a debit cardfunded monthly. Cash assistance amounts vary and are calculated per household in order to meet a basic after-rent standard. 

The POD program looks at household’s income after paying rent and compares it to the POD After-Rent Income Standard. The current POD After-Rent Income Standard is $747 for a one-person household and $1,306 for a two-person household.  The program then provides cash assistance, between $1 - $700 for a one-person household and $1 - $1,225 for a two-person household, to meet the After-Rent Income Standard.  

How does the program work? 

After you submit an application, and you meet the qualifications, you would be selected to participate via a lottery system. 

Do I qualify? 

You might qualify if you meet the following requirements: 

  • You are at least 65 years of age; 
  • You moved into your rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica before January 1, 2000; 
  • Your household income is less than $39,450 a year if you live alone, or less than $45,050 a year if you live with one other person;  
  • You do not already participate in a housing assistance program or live in an affordable housing property; 
  • Your “after-rent” income is less than $747 for a one-person household or less than $1,306 for a two-person household. 

What if I don’t meet one of these requirements? 

You still might qualify for other assistance programs. To find what assistance programs are available, see the links below: 

How do I sign up? 

You can apply online at santamonica.gov/housing-pod-apply. The online application is available in English and Spanish. You can also download a copy of the paper application that you can print, fill out, and mail back to us at:

Santa Monica Housing and Human Services Division
Attn: POD Program
1685 Main Street, Mail Stop #19
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Where does the money for this program come from? 

The funds used for this program are 100% generated from local sales taxes created via Santa Monica ballot measure GSH adopted in November 2016. 

Who can I call if I have more questions or to help me over the phone? 

You can call the City of Santa Monica Housing & Human Services Division at (310) 458-8743 or send us an email at podprogram@santamonica.gov. 

 

APPLYING 

I already applied. When will I receive assistance? 

After you apply, staff will check your application to make sure you meet the requirements for age, rent control status, and income. Your application is placed on a waiting list if it meets these requirements. You’ll be notified within 30 days from the date that we received your application to confirm that your application was placed on the waiting list. 

Applications are selected from the waiting list by lottery. You’ll be notified when your application is selected via email and regular mail. You’ll also be asked to submit supporting documents for a final eligibility review before you are enrolled into the program.  

Your wait time will depend on the time it takes for your application to be selected in a lottery and your turnaround time for submitting supporting documents. 

 

I can’t use a computer. Can I apply somewhere in-person or over the phone? 

If you have trouble accessing or completing the online application, give us a call at (310) 458-8743 or send us an email at podprogram@santamonica.gov so we can find some other way for you to apply. 

 

I’m not 65 years old but I will be soon. Can I apply or should I wait? 

If you’re less than 12 months away from turning 65, go ahead and complete your application. Keep in mind that we will not be able to enroll you until your 65th birthday at the earliest. 

 

I have a friend, neighbor, or relative who might qualify. Can I help them apply? 

Yes! You can help them and even complete the online application on their behalf. You’ll need to have information about their income, assets, and rent before you can complete the application. 

 

Do I have to be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident to apply? 

No, there is no citizenship or legal status requirement to apply. However, you must have either a valid Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to participate in the program. 

 

I already applied and didn’t qualify. But my situation has changed and I think I would qualify now. Do I have to reapply? 

No, you don’t have to reapply. You can contact us to explain that your situation has changed and that you would like us to reassess your eligibility. We can be reached via email at podprogram@santamonica.gov or by phone at (310) 458-8743. 

 

I’m concerned about my privacy and identity theft. Will my information be kept confidential? 

Yes, your personal information is kept 100% private and not shared with anyone outside of City of Santa Monica staff and the company that issues cash payment cards. 

 

Do I have to let my landlord know that I applied for this program? 

No, this program does not involve your landlord at all. We do not provide information to anyone else about your application without your permission. 

 

HOUSEHOLD MEMBERS 

Does it matter if I have a roommate? 

The online application will ask you how many people live in your household. You should include any roommates living with you in the household countYou do not need to report any further details about your roommate other than his or her name and how much they contribute to the monthly rent. 

 

I have a live-in aide or caregiver who lives with me. Do I have to include them in my application? 

The online application will ask you how many people live in your household. You should include any live-in aides or caregivers living with you in the household count. As long as the live-in aide or caregiver does not help you pay for rent and other expenses, and he or she is only there to provide for your care, then you do not need to report any further details other than their name. 
 

I have someone staying with me temporarily. Do I have to include them in my application? 

You should include someone staying with you temporarily if they are helping you pay for rent and other expenses. 

 

I am at least 65 years old, but my spouse isn’t. Would we still qualify? 

Yes, you would likely still qualify for the program. You would receive the cash assistance amount that applies for a 1-person household because there would only be one eligible senior in the household. 

 

Do my spouse and I have to fill out our applications separately or do we fill one out together? 

You can complete the application on behalf of your entire household. 

 

INCOME & ASSETS 

What kinds of things are considered as income? 

We would consider the following as regular sources of income: 

  • Wages, salary, commissions bonuses, or tips from a job; 
  • Benefits from Social Security, Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) 
  • Business or self-employment income; 
  • Pension or annuity income; 
  • Unemployment benefits, work-related disability (state disability), or workers’ compensation; 
  • Alimony or child support; 
  • Benefits from CalWORKs, General Relief (GR), and cash assistance for immigrants (CAPI); 
  • Regular financial assistance from friends, relatives, or anyone else outside of the household. 

 

What kinds of things are NOT considered as income? 

For purposes of calculating the cash assistance, we don’t consider the following as sources of income: 

  • CalFresh benefits; 
  • Payments received in a single lump sum, such as inheritances, capital gains, lottery winnings, insurance settlements, and proceeds from the sale of property (these are generally considered to be assets); 

 

What if my income varies and I don’t know exactly know how much it is? 

If that’s the case, then we ask that you do the best you can to report your income on the application. The application questions will generally ask about your income sources, how much you receive, and how often you receive it. It’s okay to give us an estimate if you’re not able to get a precise amount. 

 

What if I have savings but very little income? Can I still qualify? 

The short answer is yes, you may still qualifyIf you have more than $5,000 in savings or other assets, such as investments or property, then we need to count 10% of the value of these assets as part of your annual income. We call this “imputed asset income” and it is part of the formula that we use to calculate your cash assistance amount. 

In some cases, depending on a household’s income, rent, and the cash value of all assets, the imputed asset income will be enough to limit your cash assistance amount or make you ineligible altogether. But we can’t determine that for sure until we have a chance to review your application. 

 

What kinds of things are considered as assets? 

We would consider the following as assets: 

  • The cash value of checking and savings accounts, investment accounts, stocks, bonds, saving certificates, and money market funds; 
  • Equity in real property or other capital investments, trusts, and retirement savings accounts; 
  • The cash value of a whole life insurance policy; 
  • Personal property held as an investment, such as gems, jewelry, coin collections, antique/classic cars, or luxury vehicles values at $5,000 or higher. 

 

I own some real property. Do I still qualify? 

You may still qualify. Equity in real property and other capital investments is counted in the calculation of your asset income. You must also certify that your rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica is your sole and primary residence. 

 

If I get cash assistance through this program, do I have to report it on a tax return? 

No. Governmental benefit payments based upon need, such as POD program payments, are nontaxable (IRS Publication 525). Regardless, the City will mail you a 1099 form by early February reporting the total amount of cash assistance we paid to you throughout the year. 

For any other tax questions you should seek tax advice from the IRS or from a tax professional.  

 

I get CalFresh. Will this program affect my CalFresh benefits? 

It’s possible that the cash assistance you would receive under this program might reduce the amount you receive from CalFresh benefitsThe amount you would receive under the POD program would more than make up for the reduction in CalFresh benefits. 

 

I have SSI. Will this program affect my SSI benefits? 

No, the cash assistance you would receive under the POD program should not be counted as income by the Social Security Administration. That’s because under federal law it is considered to be “assistance based on need” that is excluded from income. 

To get SSI your countable resources must not be worth more than $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple. This is called the resource limit. If you get SSI, you must use POD cash assistance to pay for your basic needs and not accumulate the funds in a bank account or else you might go over the resource limit. 

 

I have relatives who help me pay rent or other bills. Do you count this as income? 

Yes, if you receive the contribution regularly. By regular, we mean any contribution or gift you receive more than 3 times per year, unless the amount is less than $100 per occurrence. This includes rent and utility payments made on your behalf and other cash contributions provided on a regular basis. 

 

have a lot of medical, disability, and other unavoidable expenses. Do you count any of these? 

Although POD program cash assistance will help you pay for these expenses, the program isn’t designed to address all aspects of a household’s financial situationThe program is designed only to equalize the remaining amount of income each household retains after paying rent. 

 

CASH ASSISTANCE PAYMENTS 

How much cash assistance would I get? 

For a household with one participating senior, the cash assistance could range anywhere from $1 to $700. For a household with two participating seniors, the cash assistance could range anywhere from $1 to 1,225 per household. 

 

How do you come up with the cash assistance amount? 

We use a formula to calculate the cash assistance amount. The formula is based on your monthly gross income, monthly rent, and what we call the POD After-Rent Basic Needs Budget Standard. 

The POD After-Rent Basic Needs Budget Standard amounts are $747 for a one-senior household and $1,306 for a two-senior household. There is also a maximum cash assistance amount. The cash assistance amount cannot be more than $700 for a one-senior household and $1,225 for a two-senior household. 

This is how we calculate the cash assistance amount. First, we take your household monthly gross income and subtract your monthly rent amount. This gives us your monthly “after-rent” income. Then, we subtract your monthly “after-rent” income amount from the POD After-Rent Basic Needs Budget standard for your household size. The difference is your cash assistance amount. 

Here’s an example: let’s say you’re a household of one senior, your gross income is $1,200 a month, and your rent is $900 a month. That means your “after-rent” income is $300 a month. We then subtract your $300 “after-rent” income from the POD Basic Needs Budget standard of $747 for a one-senior household. The difference is $447 a month. Therefore, the cash assistance amount would be $447. 

 

How often would I receive cash assistance? 

The cash assistance would be paid to you monthly on the first business day of each month. 

 

How is the cash assistance paid to me? 

The cash assistance is deposited each month unto a debit card that is issued to you. The card is mailed to you after enrollment. The card is managed by a company called Money Network. 

You can use the card anywhere debit cards are accepted: in-store, online or by phoneYou can also get cash using ATMs or get cash back at the register with PIN debit purchases at participating merchants. 

 

How is the POD After-Rent Income Standard established? 

The POD After-Rent Income Standard is derived from the 2015 University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Elder Index Basic Needs BudgetThe UCLA Center for Healthy Policy Research developed this index to provide an evidence-based indicator of the actual basic costs faced by older adults (aged 65 and over). 

The POD program calculates budget amounts for one-person and two-person households. The estimated budget amounts for food, healthcare, and miscellaneous expenses are based on the UCLA Elder IndexThe estimated budget amounts for transportation expenses are based on the senior rate for Big Blue Bus 30-day pass. The estimated budget amounts for utilities are based on the amounts used for federally subsidized tenants to help pay for reasonable utility bills. 

 

How long does this program last? 

The program is funded through the fiscal year that ends on June 30, 2023. Future-year funding is subject to City Council budget approval every two years. 

 

Can I use this to pay my rent? 

Yes, you can use POD program cash assistance to pay for rent and other expenses. The cash assistance is paid directly to you and not to the landlord. You would continue to pay the landlord out of your monthly budget. 

 

If my circumstances change while I participate in the program, can I get my cash assistance amount changed? 

Yes, we can change the amount if you experience a change in income greater than $200 per month, or a rent increase greater than $100 per month. You can contact us to explain that your situation has changed and that you would like us to reassess your cash assistance amount. We can be reached via email at podprogram@santamonica.gov or by phone at (310) 458-8743. 

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