By Rachel La Corte
The Associated Press
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday he has extended the state’s eviction moratorium to Sept. 30, with some modifications, to ensure federal COVID-19 relief funds intended for rental assistance can be accessed in time.
Inslee’s announcement came hours after the Biden administration extended the nationwide ban on evictions for a month, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this latest federal extension is intended to be the final one. Last week, Seattle extended its city moratorium until Sept. 30.
The Jefferson County Fair Association is among those affected by the ban extension. It will be unable to evict the 50 or more people living in its campground by June 30, said Sue McIntire, fairgrounds manager.
The association had announced plans to evict the people, and county officials have been working to find an alternative place for people without shelter.
“Hopefully, the county will have something in place” by Sept. 30, McIntire said.
Inslee said he also wanted to make sure programs approved by state lawmakers, including a “right to counsel” measure that ensures low-income tenants have legal representation when faced with an eviction, are up and running before moratorium protections were fully lifted.
He noted there are new provisions in the short-term state extension that differ from the previous moratorium that has been in place for more than a year. They include the requirement that starting on Aug. 1 renters are expected to pay full rent unless they negotiate a lesser amount with their landlords or actively seek rental assistance.
Under what he called a “bridge” out of the moratorium, Inslee said that, through July 31, landlords are prohibited from evicting a tenant for past-due rent during the pandemic until both the rental assistance program and eviction resolution program is in place in their county.
Starting Aug. 1, landlords can take action if a tenant isn’t paying rent or trying to obtain rental assistance as long as they offer that tenant a reasonable repayment plan before starting the eviction process. Tenants must also be provided in writing which services and support are available to them.
As before, evictions are still allowed in cases where the landlord intends to sell or move into the property, or if an affidavit declares there are health and safety issues to the property created by the occupant.
According to the Census Pulse Survey for the week of May 26 through June 7, about 13,000 households statewide are currently not paying rent, and more than 40,000 have “no confidence” they could pay next month’s rent.
The Census survey found that more than 10,000 respondents said it was “very likely” they would have to leave their home due to eviction in the next two months.
More than 30,000 said it was “somewhat” likely they would be evicted in that time frame.
While more than $650 million in federal funds have been appropriated to help renters, most of that money is not yet available, Inslee said.
Of the $500 million previously allocated to the state Department of Commerce for local government rent assistance, about $126 million in assistance has been billed to the agency by the counties since last August, but spokeswoman Jaime Smith noted there is frequently a lag between when counties pay out money to landlords and when they bill the state for reimbursement.
That lag, she said, makes it hard to know exactly how much funding has been paid out, since the state numbers only reflect what they’ve been billed for. But the ultimate number of households likely to be helped is expected to be more than 80,000, Smith said.