King Co. suspends housing vouchers as sequester takes effect

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

The agency announced Thursday that it will 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 their 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. They met for less than an hour.

The cuts will begin carving $85 billion of government spending by day’s end.

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.

Back 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. “We want to ensure people who are in the program their assistance is not disrupted.”

Rosenberg said the affected wait list has 2,500 people. She said that people who already receive vouchers are not in imminent jeopardy of losing rental help.

“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.

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