Over $ 4.5 million in rent and mortgage assistance still available to Lewis County residents

By Eric Rosane / [email protected]

Lewis County and the Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties Community Action Council (CAC) collectively still have more than $ 4.5 million in assistance to tenants and landlords who are behind in their payments rent, mortgage or utilities.

Nearly 1,600 non-unique households have benefited from the Lewis County Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) since relief was first made available in August 2020, for a total of more than $ 2.77 million in rent and utility assistance, said Justia Madrigal, of Lewis County Public Health and Human Services. ‘contract coordinator.

About $ 70,000 of the local CAC’s community development block grant has so far been used by homeowners to make up their mortgage payments.

Funds for both programs are available to residents until June 2023.

“The logistics of releasing these funds have been intimidating both for us and for our contractors. But overall, we’ve been successful because of the strength of our partnerships, ”Public Health Director JP Anderson said in a statement provided to The Chronicle.

“We hope people will use these funds to stay housed, get back on track and maintain a good reputation with their owners or loan holders. ”

These funds were provided to the Washington State Department of Commerce through federal COVID-19 assistance programs, such as the US federal bailout law and the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund.

The ERAP state subsidy program aims to prevent evictions that would contribute to the spread of the virus by paying overdue dues and distributing resources to those who have missed or partially missed a rent payment since March 1, 2020, according to information on the Lewis County website.

Lewis County is currently on its third contract with the Commerce Department to distribute rental assistance funds, Madrigal said. It subcontracts the funds through the Salvation Army and the Spanish-Speaking Equity Institute, where applicants can be found.

News of the county’s assistance program got off to a slow start, Madrigal said, but has picked up in recent months. They are still trying to reach people who might need help in the more rural parts of Lewis County, including the east.

“I think the need was there so he was pretty stable across the board. During the winter months, I think we see a little higher need due to the need for electricity, but the demand has been quite stable, ”she said.

Since the start of the pandemic, Lewis County has also received approximately $ 4.02 million in Rent Assistance Program funding from the Treasury and $ 778,000 in ERAP 1.0 funds which also benefited tenants and tenant payments. public services.

How can I apply?

Tenants seeking relief through Lewis County’s ERAP 2.0 program must be county residents, currently behind on rent or utility payments, and have a family income of 80% or less than the median income of the region.

Applications have been open since May of this year and are filtered by the Salvation Army. More information is available online at www.centralia.salvationarmy.org/centralias/rental-assistance. Residents can also call 360-736-4339 for more information.

Landlords can also initiate the application process for their tenants, Madrigal said.

“We really encourage people to take advantage of the aid while we have it,” she said. “It’s a pretty quick process. Typically, as long as all the documents are there, the turnaround time is approximately two weeks from the interview. And I would also encourage owners to reach out and get the process started.

Information for Spanish speaking residents, as well as other resources, is also available online at the Equity Institute at www.tuhogarlc.com.

Mortgage relief is available through the CAC, which has about $ 550,000 in its block grant to offer to residents of Lewis County, Madrigal said.

The CAC can help you with up to six months of overdue mortgage payments or a limit of $ 6,000 in relief. To be eligible, homeowners must have an income of 80% or less of the region’s median income and must prove their hardship is related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These are one-time payment programs.