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Eviction moratorium bridge extension too short for King County to address all rental assistance applications

King County expects to have 6,000-8,000 rental assistance applications to address after the eviction moratorium bridge expires.

SEATTLE — Gov. Jay Inslee extended Washington state's eviction moratorium bridge to October 31. The decision was made to help give counties more time to distribute federal funds intended for rental assistance.

However, King County believes there will still be thousands of open applications after the bridge ends, even with the extension.

King County's rental assistance program has faced an efficiency problem for months. The latest numbers from the Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) show $34.4 million have been distributed since January 2021, which is just over 10% of the funding given to the county from the federal government.

"This is an amount of money that is historically large," said DCHS Director Leo Flor. "It's an opportunity really to help a lot of folks. And the thing that we have really seen is getting the system in place, getting the translations in place, getting the federal simplifications in place, have really made a big difference."

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Applications are moving more quickly through the system than they were before. Last week the department distributed $4.4 million. Flor said distribution is moving five times faster than it was a few weeks ago.

Flor said Inslee's extension will make a big difference. He said DCHS will be able to get to around 12,000 applications by October 31 and distribute an estimated $123 million. However, the county will still have applications left to get to even into 2022, Flor said.

It's also likely more households will apply during the extension, and the county estimates the number of new applicants could be in the thousands, which highlights another concern.

"The need in our community is still more than the amount of resources that we believe that we have," said Flor.

Resources currently total more than $300 million, and depending on the need, the county may have to ask for more. The average rental assistance payment is $12,200.

There are 14 different community organizations the department partnered with to distribute funds. The county has translated rental assistance information into 29 different languages.

Applying for the program connects and guarantees people certain resources while waiting for rental assistance, which is why Flor said people need to apply even if they're not contacted before the eviction moratorium bridge expires.

"We would much rather have people reach out, get connected to resources, be in line to get paid, and also avail themselves of a lot of the tenant protections that are available in our state, in our county," explained Flor.