Almost $5 million in emergency rental assistance is set to funnel into Lewis County — a major increase from the $776,000 that helped a little more than 200 renters throughout the pandemic.
Applications are now open for the funds that could help as many as 900 households, according to Meja Handlen, housing coordinator for Lewis County Public Health and Social Services. Still, it’s “far less than the need,” she said.
“This is going to be a pretty big one, with a lot of impact in our community,” said public health director J.P. Anderson.
The funding specifically targets individuals 80% lower than the median income, and 10% of the funding is carved out for young adults, whose entry-level jobs were especially hard-hit by the pandemic, Handlen said. A TikTok campaign is planned to reach that demographic — a project that could partner with local high school or college students to help get the word out.
Mailers will also be sent out, information will be included in utility bills in the Twin Cities, and “Mondays in Morton” events will be held to help residents apply.
The $4,867,482 isn’t coming from the latest federal COVID relief package, but from a federal bill passed last December.
“So you can count on additional funds on top of this,” said budget manager Becky Butler.
The Salvation Army and Equity Institute will distribute the funds. One “very significant difference” in the new chunk of funding, according to Handlen, is that landlords can apply directly. Also unique to the new funds is that they can go toward utilities including water, sewer, garbage, cable and internet.
“So this is a very nice opportunity for our community to help people get back on their feet and move forward with their lives after the pandemic hit them pretty hard,” she said.
The funding comes during a statewide eviction moratorium that has been extended every few months by Gov. Jay Inslee. Currently, the moratorium is set to expire June 30, at which point officials expect a tidal wave of residents thrown into homelessness.
The funding will begin becoming available late April.
For application information, call the Salvation Army at 360-736-4339. Spanish speakers should call the Equity Institute at 855-283-2241. Applicants will be put on a waiting list for now, and more information will be coming out as the county launches its information campaigns.