Federal, state assistance flowing into communities seeking rent relief

Federal monies meant to keep renters behind on their rent from losing their shelter has been flowing into communities across Puget Sound.

The feds gave Washington state hundreds of millions of dollars to help both renters and landlords but, how fast that help has flowed into the community depends on where you live. 

Some municipalities are sharing assistance to renters and others directly to landlords. Pierce County says it has distributed nearly three-quarters of its assistance already, but those seeking help in King County are having to wait longer.  

"Every dollar is impacting everyone else," said Valerie Almony from Pierce County Human Services. 

Almony says outreach began months ago before the beginning of summer to both renters and landlords about how they can apply for assistance. County non-profit organizations also helped spread the word about a program meant to keep renters in areas from becoming homeless, and ensuring landlords are not left out of the assistance. 

 "Some communities are sending money to tenants, we have decided its more beneficial to get the money to the landlords," said Almony. 

The Treasury Rent assistance program awarded Washington state with more than $333 million in aid earlier this year. Apart from operating and other expenses, most of that money is intended to cover rent that went unpaid during the pandemic. 

Adding in more dollars earmarked for rental assistance from the state, Snohomish County planned to distribute more than $53 million, Pierce County planned to share nearly $58 million and King County planned to share nearly $145 million. Snohomish County says it has nearly 80% of its rental relief monies, Pierce County also has shelled out more than 70%, helping landlords like Chris Dobler. 

"We saw our highest price rentals impacted first," she said.

Dobler’s company has been a family business for more than 30 years with thousands of rental units, mostly multi-family and mostly in Pierce County. Dobler says the rent assistance program has helped her company through tough times but more importantly helped her renters understand help is on the way and they could be open about their needs. 

 "It’s open and honest communication and we’re used to that," she said. "We’re used to that communication. I’m glad things have changed from the eviction moratorium because there was a time we weren’t even allowed to engage in those conversations."

King County’s approach to disbursing assistance has been different because the population and anticipated need is much larger than in surrounding communities. Seattle Times reported the county spread less than $5 million of funding by mid-August.

County officials say a new data system needed to be built to verify information from applicants and help distribute funds but exact figures on how much has been sent out could be revealed next week.


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