Spokane has won $6.7 million in federal funding to provide emergency rental and utility assistance to city residents.
The exact parameters of how the city will implement the program have yet to be determined, but according to city documents the funding must be used to provide assistance to “eligible households unable to pay rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which shall include utility and home energy costs.”
The treasury department funding was made available to state and local governments as part of the $900 billion pandemic relief package approved by Congress late last year.
According to a Jan. 7 news release from the treasury department, eligible households for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program must earn 80% or less than the area median income and have at least one member who faces financial hardship due to COVID-19. Alternatively, the household must have at least one member who can prove they are at risk of becoming homeless.
The city has already tapped nonprofits, including the Spokane Workforce Council and Catholic Charities, to administer COVID-19 rental assistance programs with funding obtained through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act adopted by Congress last March.
Although the city invested more than $1 million of its $9.9 million of CARES Act funds in rental assistance programs, advocates for tenants and landlords have pleaded for more as the economy continues to struggle during the pandemic.
During a meeting of the Finance and Administration Committee on Monday, Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs suggested that city leaders take the same approach to the new funding that they did in 2020. That would entail having council members and administration officials collaboratively determine how to administer the funding.
Beggs said the funds address an issue “right at the nerve of the community.”
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