As the nation continues the battle against the Coronavirus pandemic, millions of Washingtonians continue to feel the financial impact throughout their lives. The uncertainties of jobs and coping with the loss of primary incomes have left many to grapple with unreliable living situations.
With close to two million renters across King County, many residents’ primary concern remains how to pay their rent with the growing rise of seeking unemployment. While trying to provide aid during these stressful times, on Friday, April 10, King County announced a partnership with the City of Seattle and United Way of King County to expand the Home Base Program. The program would be a $5 million project to provide individuals and families with rental assistance and prevent evictions during April.
What started as an effort to assist the public with resources for rent and keeping families from experiencing homelessness in 2019, United Way has expanded to become a vital nonprofit in the fight against the COVID-19 health crisis. Currently, the Home Base Program is only open to King County residents. However, applicants are not required to have a social security number to qualify for funds.
The program issues one-time grants to individuals or families financially impacted by the current crisis. United Way CEO Gordon McHenry Jr. stated that the first 2,000 families to apply
are the priority for financial assistance, focusing on those who are unable to pay their rent in April. To be eligible, applicants must show proof of residency in King county, have a current monthly household income below 50 percent of the Area Median Income, and are economically impacted under the circumstances of COVID-19. Additional forms are required and can be found on the United Way of King County website. Those who currently do not have access to a cellphone, laptop, or tablet, can still apply by calling 2-1-1, a service hotline specifically for issues related to rental assistance in Washington. Once the application is received, a case manager from one of the representing agencies will be in touch with applicants before contacting the landlord.
Additionally, King County and the City of Seattle have each funded $1.5 million towards the assistance plan alongside $1.5 million from the Seattle Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund. Washington Corporations, including Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks, have provided the remaining funds, with many individual donors and other nonprofits contributing through United Way. McHenry Jr. expressed that the community funding has been a good start for providing rental assistance, but acknowledged, “this crisis will be with us for the foreseeable future, and it will require a continuing effort from all of us to chip in and help as much as we can.”
Many homeowners struggling with mortgages due to the effects of the pandemic also hope to see the establishment of homeowner’s assistance programs. However, no such programs exist as of yet in Washington State. Additionally, Jay Inslee’s 30-day ban on evictions will end sometime in mid-April, raising concerns for those who do not qualify for assistance programs such as the Home Base Program but still fear the possibilities of evictions.
While the County continues to vouch for rental assistance, many King County Council Members are also beginning to push for state legislation, which would freeze rent and mortgages as the COVID-19 situation continues to develop and increasingly affect more residents. King County Executive Dow Constantine recognized the efforts of the Home Base program stating, “this is an important step, but we must work with our state and federal governments, as well as private philanthropy, to do more to support our neighbors in need, and get through this emergency together.”