Chelan-Douglas Community Action Council Reduce Requirements for Rental Assistance

After hearing feedback from the State Department of Commerce, the U.S. Treasury Department has relaxed certain requirements for the Eviction Rent Assistance (ERAP) financial assistance program, resulting in an increased applicancy pool for the Chelan-Douglas Community Action Council.

In just one week, the council distributed over $401k in rental assistance funds. In the first two weeks of October, they provided support to 142 households, with a total of 825 qualifying households since January, 2021. The dramatic increase in applicants has prompted the council to hire 4 new staff members for the Housing Department and one that was promoted.

“There is a strong need in our region and our staff is working very hard to meet that need. It’s exciting to see the change in eligibility requirements. This allows us to offer financial assistance to individuals and families that need it, but were having difficulty meeting existing criteria,” explained Chelan Douglas Community Action Council Executive Director Alan Walker.

The change was made possible after the State Department of Commerce listened to the testimonies of the council and other providers on the challenges they were experiencing with the previous requirements.

"The America Recovery Plan Act that passed earlier this year is the funding stream for this round of funding and it originally started out being managed by the U.S. Treasury Department, who interestingly enough had never managed a rent assistance program before," Walker explained. "They established eligibility requirements and also reporting requirements, both of which really caused a difficult situation to get the funding out to individuals that were in need, which was the purpose of the act in the first place and so it kind of created a bottle-neck."

The new requirements for the ERAP financial assistance program only require that your income is at or below 80% of Area Median Income (AMI), meaning that you have had a missed/past due rent payment that hasn't been paid or has been partially unpaid since March 1, 2020 for the place you currently live in.

"There is not a limit as to what an individual is eligible for so theoretically we pay rent all the way back to March 1st of 2020, and in some cases perhaps forward as well," Walker explained."If someone comes in and is eligible for the program and has a missed back rent payment, we can get them caught up and then we can also pay up to 3 months forward for rent and/or utilities."

United States citizenship is not an eligibility requirement, so those who may be undocumented citizens or are in the process of applying for citizenship can apply. The council also pays the landlord directly, so they can be assured that the money is used only for rental assistance.

"The landlord has to sign off that they are accepting the funds for rent that is due and so therefore we know that the rent is being caught up." Walker then added, "If they have mortgages or repairs that they haven't been able to do because rent hasn't been coming in, it's really an opportunity for the landlords as much as it's for the renters."

The Action Council Press Release states the following:

"Several regional non-profit organizations are again supporting the effort, including Hand In Hand Immigration Services, Community for the Advancement of Family Education (CAFE), and Children’s Home Society of Washington.

To apply, contact the Chelan-Douglas Community Action Council office at (509) 662-6156 to schedule an appointment and ask for 'Rent Assistance.'"

Correction:

In Leavenworth Echo/Cashmere Valley Record Issue #43 and November Wenatchee Business Journal, we said that the Chelan Douglas Community Action Council hired 14 new people for their Housing Department. There were 14 people hired altogether, with only four being hired for housing and one who was promoted to the department.

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