Snohomish County kicks off new rental assistance program

It starts with nearly $25 million from the U.S. Treasury Department. More funding is expected soon.

EVERETT — Snohomish County on Monday announced a new emergency rental assistance program that’s expected to provide more than $20 million in aid to residents who have struggled to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money, from a $900 billion federal relief package, is intended for renters who are at risk of homelessness or housing instability because of financial hardships associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, says a news release from the county.

County officials say the funding won’t be enough to meet the extraordinary need for rental assistance amid the pandemic, but it will make a difference for some residents who might otherwise lose their homes when a statewide eviction moratorium expires.

“There are many families in every neighborhood in Snohomish County suffering because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the idea of losing their homes in the midst of this crisis is another heavy burden,” County Executive Dave Somers said in a written statement. “We are grateful that these federal funds are available to keep people in their homes and prevent even more suffering. We are in this crisis together, and together, we’ll get through it.”

To be eligible for the funding, households must make no more than 80% of the area median income, according to the news release.

Residents can apply by calling 211, a hotline that connects people in need with basic financial assistance.

The county received nearly $25 million for the program from the U.S. Treasury Department under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which became law late last year. The package included $25 billion for rental assistance nationwide, to be funneled through state and local governments.

“We appreciate the work our congressional delegation has done to target resources to communities in need during the pandemic,” County Council Chairwoman Stephanie Wright said in a written statement. “We have known that rent assistance will be a critical part of our recovery and key feature of reducing the negative consequences of the pandemic in our community.”

Ninety percent of the county’s roughly $24.8 million allocation will become rental assistance payments for qualifying applicants, said Jackie Anderson, division manager of county Housing and Community Services. The other 10% is reserved for costs associated with administering and operating the program, Anderson said.

The county expects to receive about $33 million more for the program from the recent Consolidated Appropriations Act through a grant from the state Department of Commerce. The additional funding, when available, will also be accessible to qualifying households by calling North Sound 211, Anderson said.

The county is contracting with Volunteers of America of Western Washington, which will screen applicants and administer the payments.

The amount awarded to qualifying applicants will be based on federal program criteria, Anderson said.

Priority will be given to applicants at or below 50% of the area medium income and applying households with one or more people who have been unemployed for more than 90 days, according to the news release.

Partner organizations will coordinate with landlords and reach out to eligible households, the release says.

Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee extended the eviction moratorium through June 30. The ban, in place for more than a year now, has been extended several times.

The federal CARES Act provided more than $22 million in emergency rental relief to county residents last year. That money helped some 6,000 households, Anderson said.

More information about the county’s emergency rental assistance program is available online at snohomishcountywa.gov. For information in languages other than English: Spanish | Vietnamese | Chinese | Korean | Russian

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

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