A small clutch of people with signs at the corner of Broadway and Pike caught Danielle Rogers’ eye the evening of Aug. 27. The mother of five stopped and accepted a half sheet of paper offered by one of the demonstrators from Cancel the Rent, part of a nationwide movement to relieve millions of households from the crushing burden of rent debt and threat of eviction as the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge.
Fewer than 24 hours before, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down an eight-page, unsigned opinion ending the federal moratorium on evictions imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In so doing, the court opened the door to millions of evictions across the country.
Rogers had heard about the decision already, and it struck close to home. She knows the fear of homelessness. She and three of her children were evicted and had to live in their vehicle after falling behind on rent herself in 2020 after losing her job due to the coronavirus pandemic. She secured an apartment in Seattle but had to sell her car to keep up with rent payments. Now she’s two months behind and fearful of what could come next.
“I had just started to get beyond that,” Rogers said. “I know how easy it is to go to nothing.”
“It felt like doing crisis counseling for hundreds of people each month.”
Samantha “Sam” Thompson manages our emergency financial assistance program at the West Seattle Food Bank, and she spends most of her time connecting with West Seattle tenants who need support with overdue rent or utilities. During the pandemic, the number of people needing support went through the roof, and while the lockdowns have ended, the economic impacts for people in West Seattle are ongoing. Our clients include people who lost their jobs during the pandemic, had their hours reduced, or are going to soon lose their unemployment benefits.
Compared to 2019, in 2020 applications for Helpline services — the arm of our organization that provides help with rent and utilities — nearly doubled. Helpline staff and volunteers worked overtime, and to meet the growing need we increased the average amount of our financial assistance grants by 35%.
On Thursday, June 24, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that new funds and protections will be available for renters to bridge the gap between when the state’s eviction moratorium ends and when the state Legislature’s housing stability programs begin.
“As we all know, COVID has had a significant economic impact on our state and a lot of Washingtonians are still experiencing financial hardships,” Inslee said during the press conference Thursday. “These are all reasonable steps and will help ensure that renters and landlords have the opportunity to receive support and resources that are available to them.”
On May 25, the King County Council passed a supplemental budget bill allocating $367 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for COVID-19 relief, while Seattle officials unveiled a draft plan for how the City intends to spend its share of the $1.85 trillion pie.
The King County budget bill includes $631 million in new spending: $367 million from ARPA, $249 million from a variety of other sources, and $16 million from the County’s existing reserves. The Seattle plan appropriates $128 million from ARPA: $116 million of flexible-use “COVID Local Recovery Funds” or CLRF, and $12 million specifically targeted for housing and homelessness programs. CLRF funds are received from the federal government in two equal payments: one now, and the second approximately one year from now. Seattle is planning to spend its CLRF funds as they come in; however, King County has chosen to front-load $367 million of their total $437 million allocation this year, spending from its cash balance now and using much of next year’s second payment as reimbursement.
The Morning Update Show — hosted by Trae Holiday and The Big O (Omari Salisbury) — is the only weekday news and information livestream that delivers culturally relevant content to the Pacific Northwest’s urban audience. Omari and Trae analyze the day’s local and national headlines as well as melanin magic in our community. Watch live every weekday at 11 a.m. on any of the following channels, hosted by Converge Media: YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, Periscope, and whereweconverge.com.
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Morning Update Show — Wednesday, May 19
LIVE — Peter Steinbrueck, Port of Seattle | Inslee Signs Police Reform Bills | City Council Presses Chief Diaz for Answers | King County Launches Tenant Help Program | STG Announces ELEVATE!
A round-up of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!
COVID-19 Vaccination Locations & Access Options
King County Fire District #20 Vaccine Pop-Up in Skyway —King County Fire District #20 is hosting weekly walk-up vaccine clinics in Skyway from May 19 to June 23. Beginning today, Wednesday, May 19, at 9 a.m. at the KC Fire District #20 Administration Office, individuals ages 12 and up can receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine!
The second pop-up has been rescheduled from Wednesday, May 26 to Tuesday, May 25.
Both documented and undocumented renters worried about their April rent payments will be able to breathe a little easier for at least a month, thanks to the United Way of King County’s emergency rental assistance program.