King Co. suspends housing vouchers

People currently in supported housing not in jeopardy yet

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SEATTLE -- The automatic federal budget cuts that kicked in Friday prompted King County to suspend the distribution of some housing assistance vouchers.

The King County Housing Authority announced Thursday that it would stop re-issuing rental assistance vouchers that are turned in by people who no longer need them. Normally, those vouchers would then go to people on a waiting list.

About 50 vouchers are re-issued to new people in the Section 8 House Choice program every month, said spokeswoman Rhonda Rosenberg.

Friday saw no progress in the budget standoff between President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders.

Obama and congressional Republicans are deeply at odds over how to tackle the country's $16.6 trillion debt, and they have been battling over that issue since the opposition party regained a majority in the House of Representatives more than two years ago.

The budget reductions were structured to be so unattractive that both sides would be forced to find a better deal. They haven't.

In King County, if the current budget situation holds for a year, it will cost the Housing Authority about $6.3 million, Rosenberg said.

This is "a pre-emptive action that we're taking at this point because we don't want to run out of subsidies and run out of available funds," Rosenberg said.

She said the affected wait list has 2,500 people, but that people who already receive vouchers are not in jeopardy of losing rental help to this round of cuts.

"The longer this goes on, the more families will fall through the safety net," said Stephen Norman, executive director of the King County Housing Authority, in a statement.