3,500 households seek rental assistance

Volunteers of America has helped 900 households in Snohomish County since January as it processes thousands of applications.

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EVERETT — Nearly 3,500 households are waiting for rental assistance in Snohomish County.

The latest round of money is for up to 15 months of a household’s overdue rent and only available to people who haven’t received rental assistance in the past. Volunteers of America has distributed more than $75 million to help more than 13,000 households pay rent since the pandemic began. In 2021, the nonprofit put money in people’s hands at one of the fastest rates in Washington.

“The need in the community is huge,” said Galina Volchkova, senior director for Housing Services at VOA. “… While many communities and other states were struggling to distribute rental assistance, we had already spent it. We were looking around like, ‘What’s next?’”

The nonprofit began distributing another $23 million in January. VOA has doled out more than $7.1 million to about 900 households.

The 3,500 households waiting for help are at different stages of the application process, Volchkova said. Some are waiting for a rental navigator to call them, while others are days away from their landlord receiving money. The long line for the rental assistance program also means long wait times, though.

When someone seeking help calls 211, an information and referral specialist answers and tries to connect the person to local programs that can help them. The time it takes callers to reach a 211 referral specialist varies, depending on how many people are calling on that day and at that time.

Sometimes the referral specialist answers immediately. Sometimes it takes up to two hours. North Sound 2-1-1 Program Manager Amanda Etchey said the average wait time was 15 minutes in January.

The 211 specialists also determine if callers are eligible for the rental assistance program. If so, the 211 specialist explains how the program works and what documents the caller needs to apply for the money. Volchkova added that people don’t need a Social Security number to get money and that no one asks about immigration status.

“Some people might be undocumented,” Volchkova said. “The program doesn’t limit anyone by immigration status … but there’s still fear in the community.”

The next step, and the longest part of the application process, is the time it takes for a rental navigator to call the person seeking rental assistance. The expected wait time is eight to 10 weeks right now.

“We are happy to connect with the landlord and update them on the situation,” Volchkova said. VOA will “confirm the tenant is involved in the program.”

In the past year, Washington 211 has received more housing-related calls from two Everett ZIP Codes than anywhere else in the state. Residents in the 98201 ZIP Code, which covers north Everett to 41st Street, called 211 more than 3,900 times seeking housing help. Residents in the 98204 ZIP Code, located near Paine Field, called more than 4,800 times.

Katie Hayes: katie.hayes@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @misskatiehayes.

Katie Hayes is a Report for America corps member and writes about issues that affect the working class for The Daily Herald.

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