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Need for rental assistance surges in Snohomish County

Snohomish County was able to help 6,300 people stay in their homes last year. There have been more than 4,000 requests in the past eight days.

MARYSVILLE, Wash. — Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jennifer Encinias saw her income cut in half, revealing a worrisome reality.

"It was just the realization that I can't afford my apartment by myself, and if I go anywhere else, it's gonna be even more expensive," said the Marysville single mother. 

Encinias got behind on her rent for seven months, totaling about $7,000.

The only thing keeping her and countless others from being put out on the street was the state's eviction moratorium.

"There was a lot of stress," she said. "There were a couple sleepless nights."

Encinias is far from alone.

Over a six-month span last year, relief agencies provided $19 million in rental assistance — in Snohomish County, alone. That helped keep 6,300 people in their homes, and landlords paying their mortgages.

That need is expected to explode with Gov. Jay Inslee's eviction moratorium set to expire at the end of June.

RELATED: Washington's eviction moratorium extended through June 30

The $19 million in federal assistance secured by Snohomish County is expected to double this year. The money can't come soon enough for thousands across western Washington.

Since Volunteers of America started taking applications for this latest round of rental assistance, more than 4,000 people signed up in just eight days.

"I am surprised in the massive volume we've seen in just 8 short days," said Volunteers of America Chief Operating Officer Brian Smith.

Smith believes this current surge in need will not be the last, with renters and landlords still on very unstable ground.

"When that moratorium is lifted, I expect exponential growth in applications," Smith said. "People may be going back to work, but rent that hasn't been paid will be coming due."

The assistance will be available through December, and Smith believes there will be enough money to go around. 

One of the many success stories, so far, is Jennifer Encinias.

Volunteers of America was able to clear her debt, lifting the fear of what would happen to her family once that bill came due. She encourages others to ask for the help they need.

"It was beyond a lifesaver," Encinias said. "I have no words for how grateful we are to be able to get the help."

Washington residents can dial 211 to find rental assistance.

You can also call Volunteers of America at 425-259-3191 or visit their website at www.voaww.org.