FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — King County's Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program is urging people who need help with rent to apply now, despite a backlog. The county hopes to assist 12,000 households by the end of October when the state's eviction moratorium bridge is scheduled to expire.
"It relieved the stress for Christian and relieved the stress for me," said Ilona, a landlord in Federal Way. Ilona asked we not share her last name for privacy reasons.
Ilona's tenant Christian moved into the unit next to her home in 2018 with his wife and child. When the pandemic began, Christian's job as a flooring installer virtually stopped and has been slow to pick up again. The slowdown meant no money for bills and a difficult conversation with his landlord.
"I was talking every time with her... saying 'Hey, can you wait? Because I don't have the money for the rent,'" said Christian. "She said yes, but you might have to look for another job."
Ilona is retired and lives off social security. She uses the rental money to pay her mortgage.
"I had a little bit of savings that I got from my company when I retired, but that was evaporating and there was no way I was going to take and throw a family out in the street. I would never do that," said Ilona.
Together, the two applied for King County's Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program (EPRAP). To date, the program has assisted 4,656 households. The county has more than 18,000 applications. It hopes to fill 12,000 applications before the end of Gov. Inlsee's eviction moratorium bridge.
Ilona and Christian sent their application in May. It was randomly selected from the county's tenant pool.
It took four months to receive funds. In September, Ilona received a check to cover three-month back rent for Christian and money to cover his rent until this January.
The county acknowledges the process has been slow but says each week, the distribution gets faster. The county has $123 million it hopes to distribute by the end of October and it expects up to an additional $177 million for ongoing assistance starting in November. Since the start of this year, it's distributed roughly $41.4 million.
Ilona and Christian praised the program. They said representatives with the county were responsive, unlike other rental resources they attempted to contact. They worked with one of the community-based agencies to complete paperwork. Christian said they communicated with him in Spanish, his first language. Their only frustration was how long the process took.
King County estimated the county could have as many as 40,000 households behind on rent. The county will not be able to assist every tenant before the eviction moratorium bridge expires. Entering an application can help prevent someone from being evicted while they wait for assistance. The county expects it will be distributing funds into 2022.
Ilona and Christian want their story to be an example as a landlord and tenant, but also a team.
"I don't think the tenants want to be in that position and I don't think landlords want to be in this position, so if you work together and you know that there is a program out there that will help you, see if you can access that program," said Ilona.