Clallam County provides rescue funding

Money goes to housing, mental health

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County Commissioners have dispersed more American Recovery Plan Act funds over the last two weeks to Peninsula Behavioral Health and Peninsula Housing Authority.

Clallam County was granted $15 million in ARPA funds to help the county recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It received the first half of the funds in May and began the disbursement process in July, identifying areas of priority which included aid to local businesses, mental/behavioral health institutions and affordable housing.

PBH units

Peninsula Behavioral Health is pursuing a project to provide affordable housing for those with mental/behavioral health issues by purchasing the All View Hotel in Port Angeles and converting it into a 27-unit complex.

“These 27 units will consist of seven two-bedroom units that are prioritized for families with children and 19 studios for individuals and couples where at least one part is presented as having a serious behavioral health need and participating in treatment with a household income level of 80 percent of the (average median income) or lower,” said Clallam County Chief Financial Officer Mark Lane.

The cost to purchase the hotel was nearly $1.5 million. The closing date was Wednesday.

PBH applied for a Phase 1 rapid housing grant from the state Department of Commerce which required a letter of support and matching funds from both Clallam County and the City of Port Angeles in order to purchase and renovate the property.

Initially, the county provided $337,500 toward renovations of the hotel, but on Sept. 1, PBH found out it did not qualify for the Phase 1 funding due to the project not being “turnkey.”

Despite this setback, PBH was encouraged to pursue Phase 2 funding, but the closing window for the application process is sometime after the closing date on the hotel property.

As a result, PBH returned to the county to ask for additional ARPA funds that would cover the closing costs.

“This was met with the understanding that if PBH was successful in its bid for Phase 2 grant funding, the original amount provided by the county, $337,500, would be refunded based upon those grants dollars coming in,” Lane said.

As a result, the county provided an additional $727,411.

PHB Chief Executive Officer Wendy Sisk said the county could get all the money back due to other funding opportunities from the federal government.

“We met with (the state Department of) Commerce last week, and they believe we have a strong chance going into Phase 2,” Sisk said. “There are actually two pots of money now in Phase 2. One is federal coronavirus money the other is state money.

“If we are enrolled in Phase 2, there’s another possibility that they will choose to use the federal coronavirus dollars to fund this project,” Sisk continued. “If that is the case, we would be returning the full amount to the county and the city that they put forth,” Sisk said.

County commissioners agreed the project was the most cost-efficient way to help those in need in Clallam County.

“Not only does this provide affordable housing, but when I look at the costs for other localities and what they’re doing versus what this has an opportunity to ultimately provide, it’s very cost-efficient compared to other alternatives,” Commissioner Randy Johnson said.

If PBH does get funding for the project, renovation on the hotel could begin as soon as Dec. 1, pending ongoing supply chain interruptions.

PHA in Forks

Clallam County will provide $210,000 in ARPA funds to Peninsula Housing Authority to fill gaps in construction expenses on six homes in Forks that are part of the housing authority’s Mutual Self Help Program.

“This is going to be a grant that we are funding upfront, rather than on a reimbursement basis, simply because of the mechanism in which Peninsula Housing Authority manages the money for the particular projects,” Lane said.

The Mutual Self Help Program is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and it helps people go from renters to homeowners by requiring applicants to spend 32 hours a week constructing their own and others’ homes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant negative impact on the program due to increased costs in materials, supply chain and professional labor shortages, to the point where construction on these homes in Forks had to be put on hold until there was money available to fill in the gaps.

PHA exhausted all of its available grants and loan opportunities with the USDA for these homes and expects that, when the homes are completed, they will be $35,000 over budget due to the more than 90 percent increases in material costs.

If these homes continue to go unfunded, the families who have invested in them could lose the land they’re on and be forced to foreclose on their incomplete homes.

The $210,000 will be used to fill any gaps in funding the continued construction of the six homes in Forks as well as any other expenses incurred by PHA clients in relation to construction from March 1, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2024.

PHA is required to give the county monthly updates on how the funds are being utilized.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].

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