Serenity House and Olympic Community Action Programs have received grants from the state Department of Commerce to assist North Olympic Peninsula residents.
Serenity House received more than $760,000 from the Eviction Rent Assistance Program (ERAP) to assist Clallam County residents, and Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) received more than $300,000 to help Jefferson County residents.
The ERAP grants are intended to prevent evictions by paying past due, current due and future rent, targeting limited resources to those with the greatest needs while working to distribute funds equitably, said Cherish Cronmiller, OlyCAP executive director, in a press release.
OlyCAP also is working with the Jamestown S’Kallam Tribe to “ensure equitable distribution of funds in marginalized communities,” Cronmiller said.
“We believe with this funding, it will touch a wider clientele we haven’t been able to access,” said Serenity House’s Dylan Godsey, director of coordinated entry. “This funding is meant for the much broader set of the community.
“It allows us to touch those who are affected by this crisis and who will be affected at the end of the eviction moratorium.”
Gov. Jay Inslee has extended the statewide eviction moratorium until Oct. 15.
There are restrictions as to who may receive the ERAP funding, and they are the same for both OlyCAP and Serenity House, officials said.
Households must meet two initial screening criteria:
• Current income (over past 60 days) at or below 50 percent of Area Median Income.
• At least one month of rent not paid or partially unpaid since March 1, 2020.
The Area Median Income per household size can be found at tinyurl.com/PDN-IncomeLimits.
At least one household member also must meet one of six possible housing insecurity criteria:
• Rent burdened: 50 percent or more of current monthly income is needed to pay rent.
• Previously homeless within past five years. That includes experiences of couch surfing/doubling up.
• Eviction history within past seven years.
• Housing disrupted due to household member race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or religion.
• At risk of severe illness as per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (62 or older, underlying condition).
• Disability, which covers physical, developmental, mental or emotional impairment, including impairment caused by alcohol or drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder or brain injury. A person with HIV/AIDS is considered disabled.
Funds from the ERAP program can pay up to three months of rent payments in any combination of rental arrears, current rent or future rent through December. Payments can be only up to 80 percent of total rent due (arrears, current, future) or the Fair Market Rent rate, whichever is more, Godsey said.
The Fair Market Rent rates can be found at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-FMRportal.
Both agencies already have been receiving calls and helping residents with rental assistance, and they’re expecting more as they continue their outreach.
The funds expire on Dec. 31, and officials are urging those who need to get support to reach out as soon as possible.
“Housing staff has been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic to provide case management and financial supports to households in our community,” said Kathy Morgan, OlyCAP director of housing. “We know full well that we would see an increase in our homeless population but for these funds.
“The funds expire on Dec. 31, 2020, so we encourage households and youth to apply as soon as possible and not wait until the eviction moratorium is lifted.”
In addition to the ERAP funding, OlyCAP received more than $200,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds from Clallam County to help households impacted by COVID-19 with rent and mortgage assistance.
Those funds must be used by Oct. 31, so Clallam County residents are encouraged to apply now, Cronmiller said.
The household must have experienced a 50 percent drop in household income for at least 30 days since March 17 due to COVID-19. It must have a monthly rent or mortgage payment greater than 30 percent of their income as measured from the past 30 days and be in arrears.
Eligible residents can receive one month’s assistance in an amount not to exceed $2,000, Cronmiller said.
“We really hope to assist people who may have never heard of OlyCAP before and are not familiar with the social service agencies,” Morgan said.
“We hope to help those that may not meet the criteria for the Emergency Rent Assistance Program (ERAP) and will be working with our partners at Serenity House to receive referrals.”
For Jefferson County residents who need support, OlyCAP’s services can be reached by going to olycap.org and by clicking on the button that says, “Apply for Rental/Mortgage Assistance,” or by calling OlyCAP at 360-385-2571.
Clallam County residents who need support can call Serenity House at 360-536-5041, ext. 1, by visiting serenityhouseclallam.org/erap for more information.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 360-385-2335, ext. 5.