More Than $4.5 Million in Rental, Mortgage Assistance Still Available to Lewis County Residents

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Lewis County and the Community Action Council of Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties (CAC) still have more than $4.5 million collectively in assistance for renters and homeowners who have fallen behind on their rent, mortgage or utility payments.

Nearly 1,600 non-unique households have benefited from Lewis County’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) since relief was first made available in August 2020, totaling more than $2.77 million in rental and utility assistance, said Justia Madrigal, Lewis County Public Health & Social Services’ contracts coordinator.

About $70,000 in the local CAC’s community development block grant has so far been utilized by homeowners to catch up on their mortgage payments.

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

“The logistics of getting these funds out have been daunting both for us and our subcontractors. But overall, we have 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 use these funds to stay housed, get back on track and keep a good standing with their landlords or loan holders.”

These funds were brought down to the Washington state Department of Commerce through federal COVID-19 relief programs, such as the federal American Rescue Plan Act and the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund.

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

Lewis County is currently in its third contract with the Department of Commerce to distribute rental assistance funds, Madrigal said. It sub contracts the funds through the Salvation Army and the Spanish-speaking Equity Institute, where applications can be found.

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

“I think the need has been there, so it’s been fairly steady across the board. During the winter months, I think we see a little bit of a higher need due to the electricity needs, but the demand has been pretty steady,” she said.

Since the start of the pandemic, Lewis County has also received roughly $4.02 million in Treasury Rent Assistance Program funding and $778,000 in ERAP 1.0 funds that have also benefited renters and utility payments.

How Do I Apply?

Renters looking for relief through Lewis County’s ERAP 2.0 program must be a resident of the county, currently behind on rent or utility payments, and have a household income of 80% or below the area median income.

Applications have been open since May of this year and are being filtered through the Salvation Army. More information can be found 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 just really encourage folks to take advantage of the assistance while we have it,” she said. “It’s a fairly quick process. Generally, as long as all documentation is there, the turnaround is about two weeks from the interview. And I would also encourage landlords to reach out and initiate the process.”

Information for Spanish-speaking residents, as well as other resources, can also be found online at the Equity Institute at www.tuhogarlc.com.

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

The CAC can help with a maximum of six months of past-due mortgage payments or a cap of $6,000 in relief. In order to be eligible, homeowners must have an income of 80% or less of the area median income and must prove that their hardship is linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These are one-time payment programs.