OLYMPIA – Washington will extend the moratorium on evicting tenants for non-payment of rent through the end of the year as the state continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday he would extend the moratorium, which was scheduled to expire on Oct. 15, through Dec. 31.
“We don’t need more housing insecurity in this moment of uncertainty during this pandemic,” he said.
The proclamation extending the moratorium will remain largely the same, although there could be some “tweaks” when the details are released in the coming days, Inslee said during a news conference.
“As part of this, we’ve required people to be reasonable in their negotiations,” he said.
While extending the moratorium will keep some renters from being evicted during the pandemic, those renters could owe a significant amount when it ends, and landlords have ongoing expenses with less money coming in.
In early August, the state announced it was releasing $100 million in CARES Act money as rent assistance to be distributed by local governments. The money has been allocated to cities and counties, but the amount of money distributed so far wasn’t immediately available Thursday.
Whether there will be any more such aid “is somewhat dependent” on Congress, Inslee said. President Donald Trump announced earlier this week he was breaking off discussions on COVID-19 relief until after the election, but then seemed to signal that he changed his mind.
“I don’t know what to make of that, but we would hope Congress would keep working on this,” he said.
Asked if he was extending the moratorium through 2020 because he expected the pandemic to be strong for the next three months, Inslee said state officials are always trying to make the best estimates they can.
“But I do believe it is likely that we will have significant pandemic still in our state to some degree,” he said.
During the same news conference, Inslee announced the state will use $15 million from a federal grant to help businesses struggling to understand regulations or locate government resources or technical assistance during the pandemic.
Commerce Secretary Lisa Brown said the department will help connect companies with a network of partners, including the Small Business Development Center at Washington State University and the Association of Washington Business. It will help businesses rebuild or “pivot to changes caused by the virus,” she said.
Some of the money will also be used for a project with the Institute for Health Metrics studying early detection of COVID-19 and prevention of outbreaks of the virus in the fisheries industry, Brown said.
The state hopes to be able to take elements of what the institute learns and apply it go other industries like agriculture and health care.
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