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City sets aside $500,000 for rent assistance

UPDATED: Tue., July 14, 2020

Spokane City Hall.  (Christopher Anderson)
Spokane City Hall. (Christopher Anderson)

Up to $500,000 in assistance will soon be available to Spokane tenants struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic.

With funding from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, the city has set aside money to help those who have experienced lost or reduced wages as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on the economy.

On Monday, the Spokane City Council tapped the nonprofit Spokane Workforce Council to oversee the program. It was one of four applicants to respond to a request for proposals issued by the city last month.

The funding is expected to help more than 200 renters in the city of Spokane. The assistance will be available to low-income renters who are having trouble paying rent due to coronavirus.

To qualify, a renter must earn less than 60% of the area median income.

Rent payments will be made by the nonprofit directly to the tenants’ landlord. Either the tenant or the landlord can apply for the assistance, according to Paul Trautman, affordable Housing Programs Manager at the city of Spokane.

Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs called the assistance “much-needed” on Monday.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s order limiting evictions is set to expire on Aug. 1. It prohibits landlords from filing for an eviction due to a tenants’ inability or failure to pay rent.

The program expires when the funding runs out or Dec. 31, whichever comes first.

More than 12,000 Spokane County residents filed new unemployment claims at the height of the pandemic’s economic toll in March, compared to 1,998 in the week ending July 4.

Trautman described the rental assistance as aiming to “fill the gap” that renters are experiencing.

“The hope is by providing the unpaid portion or rent, we would prevent the potential for homelessness due to eviction,” he said.

Councilwoman Kate Burke asked if the nonprofit would conduct outreach about the assistance in multiple languages. Trautman said HUD requires translations of written materials be made available when necessary, but also credited the workforce council with having “so much experience dealing with diverse populations.”

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