Nearly $5.5 million in rent assistance is coming to Clark County to help lower income tenants weather the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn.
The money is part of a $100 million CARES Act relief package funneled through the state Department of Commerce. The Eviction Rent Assistance Program is focused on preventing evictions among tenants unable to pay rent. Households can receive up to three months of assistance for past, present or future rent through the end of the year.
Assistance is limited to households earning a maximum of 50 percent of the area median income. That means a family of four in Clark County would need to earn $46,050 or less, and a single person $32,250 or less.
Tedd Kelleher, senior managing director of housing assistance at the Department of Commerce, said the money will go to landlords, a common practice in rent assistance programs. He said each county will need to set up a system for disbursing the funds, which is still being figured out.
In Clark County, a handful of agencies will allocate that money, believed to be the largest source of rent assistance so far during the pandemic, said Kate Budd, executive director of Council for the Homeless. Her agency’s Housing Hotline will be one of the access points. The funds are more substantial than what was allocated through the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program launched during the Great Recession, Budd said.
She estimated the $5.5 million will help 2,500 households and that there are 8,500 local households struggling to pay rent.
“Unfortunately, what that indicates to me is we won’t be able to serve the full need in the community,” Budd said.
According to the Census Bureau’s Pulse Survey, 17 percent of Washington renters missed their July rent payment. The state’s employment has declined 12 percent since February, and use of food assistance programs has increased 15 percent.
While there are other local sources of rent assistance, such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, The Salvation Army and some culturally specific organizations, it’s realistic someone may not be able to get help. Budd advises renters to keep calling to access assistance if they aren’t successful at first. Funds should still be available into the fall.
Budd added that Clark County is going to work with culturally specific organizations because communities of color are most greatly impacted by COVID-19 both economically and health wise. For example, the NAACP could refer members to the rent assistance program.
The $5.5 million includes $558,524 for youth up to age 24 that will be distributed by Council for the Homeless and Janus Youth Programs.
It’s unclear when the Eviction Rent Assistance Program will begin serving people and whether it will continue into 2021.
“It’s really hard to predict what the future will look like,” Kelleher said. “That said, there are a lot of scenarios where it gets extended or funding is added.”
Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513; firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter.com/pattyhastings