During the worst parts of the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly 1,200 people were on Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners’ wait list for rental assistance.
The list is shorter now, at about 600 names. But that still means hundreds of Spokane County residents can’t pay rent.
“The need is still there,” SNAP Director of Community Action Carol Weltz said.
Nearly $13 million is now available to help meet that need.
On Tuesday, the Spokane County commissioners approved a contract with SNAP, sending $12.8 million to the nonprofit. It’s not Spokane County taxpayer money, at least not directly.
The funding comes from a U.S. Department of the Treasury rental assistance program and is one of several rounds of federal rental assistance that have been distributed throughout the country during the pandemic.
The money could hardly be arriving at a better time. SNAP Rental Assistance Manager Chelsey Dunham said the organization was down to its last $600,000 for rental assistance and would have run out of money within 12 days or so.
Spokane County has sent all of the federal rental assistance money it’s received to SNAP. Prior to the new $12.8 million, the county had sent SNAP a total of $27 million.
A small portion of that has gone toward administrative and operational costs, but the vast majority helped more than 3,000 households pay rent or utility bills.
SNAP’s money can only help people who live outside of Spokane city limits – the city has separate rental assistance funding for Spokanites.
Dunham said the reasons people need rental assistance have shifted somewhat during the past year.
In May, when Dunham started working at SNAP, most people who needed help paying rent had lost their jobs.
“They got laid off because everything was shut down,” she said. “The last couple of months it’s been mainly they were sick with COVID and had to take time off of work.”
Dunham estimated the $12.8 million should last seven to eight months.
It’s critical that rental assistance funding remains available, Weltz said. She said people will start becoming homeless if the money dries up.
“If you’re one month behind on your rent, you can think about getting caught up. If you’re two months behind, maybe,” Weltz said.
But falling six months or a year behind on rent?
“You’re paralyzed,” Weltz said.
County residents who need rental assistance, and don’t live in Spokane, can visit snapwa.org/snap-rental-assistance/ or call SNAP at 509-456-7627.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Carol Weltz’ name.
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