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Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program Starts Soon

The State's annual Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program begins July 1, according to the Franchise Tax Board (FTB).

"This program provides much needed financial assistance to senior, blind, and disabled Californians living on a fixed, low income. We're getting the word out to make sure all those who qualify apply and receive their assistance payments," said State Controller and Chair of the FTB, Steve Westly.

The Homeowner and Renter Assistance Program provides a once-a-year payment from the state to qualified homeowners and renters based on property taxes directly paid by homeowners and indirectly paid by renters. For the 2005 claim year, eligible homeowners can receive a payment of up to $472.60, while renters can receive up to $347.50. The FTB began mailing claim booklets in mid-June to prior year recipients. Eligible individuals can also get the claim form from the FTB's Website at: www.ftb.ca.gov.

The FTB runs the program from July 1 through October 15, although claims can be filed as late as June 30, 2006. However, the FTB strongly advises claimants to file by the October 15 deadline to avoid lengthy delays in payment processing.

To qualify, homeowners must have owned and lived in their home at the end of 2004, have a household income of $39,699 or less, or gross income of $72,179 or less (see instructions for details), and be a U.S. citizen, designated alien, or qualified alien when the claim is filed. Renters must pay $50 or more in rent per month and meet the above income limits and residency rules. Claimants must have been blind, disabled, or at least 62 years old on December 31, 2004.

The FTB answers questions and provides general assistance over the phone. Interested persons can call (800) 868-4171. The phone line features an automated service where claimants can order HRA forms, hear answers to frequently asked questions, and check on the status of their current year claim.

For free help with completing the claim forms, the FTB lists the locations and hours for the statewide volunteer assistance program on its Website. To locate the nearest volunteer site, visit the FTB's Website, call your local Senior Citizens Information and Referral Service, or call your state legislator's office.