MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Snohomish County nonprofit to cut off new rental assistance applications

Feb 24, 2022, 12:42 PM | Updated: 12:46 pm

As the last of the eviction moratoriums are coming to an end — in Seattle’s case, next week — a Snohomish County nonprofit giving out federal rental assistance says it is getting tapped out.

Galina Volchkova, senior director of Housing Services with Volunteers of America’s (VOA) Everett location, said the organization has already given out tens of millions of dollars to pay the rent for people in need.

“[From] the beginning of the pandemic, we served over 12,000 households,” Volchkova said. “We distributed around $80 million of rental assistance funds.”

The organization can pay up to 15 months of rent for those who qualify. The average payment per household has been about $9,000.

King County sending out millions in rental assistance, but it may not be enough to help everyone

Volchkova said that VOA is expecting about $35 million more to go out in the spring and early summer, but most of that is already spoken for. There are thousands of people in Snohomish County whose applications have been approved and who are waiting in the pipeline for funds.

“As of March 1, we’ll discontinue new screenings because we have 3,500 households currently enrolled in the program, waiting for assistance,” Volchkova said. “This would take about $32 million. Based on our experience, … we’ll have to make the decision to discontinue new screenings [so as] not to over-enroll in the program, and then we wouldn’t have enough to serve those already qualified and waiting.”

“We’ll still work really hard to continue services for those who enrolled in the program and are waiting on rental assistance, waiting on support to avoid homelessness,” she continued.

But even if a person misses the cutoff for new applications, it still does not mean they will end up on the streets. Volchkova stressed that there are programs to help prevent homelessness. For example, the county’s Dispute Resolution Center helps renters find a compromise with a landlord before eviction proceedings start.

“If someone is eligible for rental assistance, it’s not necessarily that this household will face immediate homelessness,” she said. “There’s risk, of course, but the Early Resolution Program at the Dispute Resolution Center, also with VOA, would start working with the case and finding some other solution. That could be a payment plan, it could be a move-out plan, it could be restructuring of the rental assistance and reaching out for other resources, it could be mediation if there’s disagreement.”

She said those making under 30% of area median income can call 211 and do a screening for the Homelessness Prevention Coordinated Entry System.

VOA also works with people to make a future housing plan, so they can find affordable housing.

“We want to make sure that we’re resolving the housing crisis in a more meaningful way, so we’ll work with a future housing plan as much as possible to ensure, along with rental assistance distribution, that we are decreasing the risk of homelessness in Snohomish County,” Volchkova said.

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