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 transportation The Preserving Our Diversity  (POD) program   strives to  help these   residents  remain in  our community  by providing   monthl y   cash assistance  in the form of a debit card funded 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 compar es  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  participa te  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 .  

 

A PPLYING  

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  s elected  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  o r 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 65 th  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.  Y ou’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. W ill  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 count Y ou 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.  Y ou 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   benefit s;  
  • 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 vari es 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 qualify I f 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.  E quity 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  no nt axable  ( 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 a ny  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?  

I t’s possible that t he cash assistance you would receive under this program might  reduce  the amount you receive from  CalFresh  benefits T he 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 a ddress  all aspects of a  household’s  financial situation The  program   is designed   only  to  equalize the remaining amount of income e ach 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.  Th e 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.  The re 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.  The n,  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 , y our  gross income  is $1,200 a m onth ,  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 .   T he refore, the  cash assistance amount would be $447.  

 

How often would I receive cash assistance?  

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

 

How is the cash assistance paid to me?  

The cash assistance is  deposi ted 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 phone You 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  d erived from the  2015 University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Elder Index Basic Needs Budget The UCLA Center for Healthy Policy Research  developed t his 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  estimate d  budget amounts for  food, healthcare, and miscellaneous expense s are based on th e UCLA Elder Index The  estimated budget amount s  for transportation  expenses  are  based on the  senior rate for  Big Blue Bus  30-day  pass . The estimated budget amount s  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.   F uture-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 othe r expenses.  T he cash assistance is paid directly to you  and not to the landlord.  You  wou ld  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 a ssistance 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.