Clallam County working with agency to help with rental assistance

Clallam County commissioners have vetted an agreement with Olympic Community Action Programs to provide rental and mortgage assistance during COVID-19.

The proposed agreement would distribute $214,900 in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to county residents who are struggling to make rent or mortgage payments due to circumstances related to the pandemic.

“When we looked statistically at the requests that we were receiving inside the agency, the No. 1 request is for rent and mortgage assistance,” said Cherish Cronmiller, executive director of Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP).

Commissioners Mark Ozias, Bill Peach and Randy Johnson are expected to approve the subrecipient agreement next week.

OlyCAP will use the CARES Act funds to provide up to $2,000 for one month’s rent or mortgage payment to qualifying county residents.

“We’re excited to see these dollars because of the number of requests that we’re getting,” Cronmiller told commissioners on July 27.

“It’s interesting to see the wide range of individuals that we’ve been serving.”

Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee extended a statewide moratorium on evictions to Oct. 15, leading some landlords and property owners to “panic,” Cronmiller said.

“These are not large conglomerate entities with millions of dollars in profits,” Cronmiller said.

“These are sometimes just individuals in our community who maybe have an ADU (accessory dwelling unit), an extra property, and they rent it out at a reasonable rate to someone, and they are using that as income themselves, or they have a mortgage to pay as well.

“It’s a domino effect,” she added.

“When the customer can’t pay, then the landlord can’t pay. It can snowball from there.”

Clallam County received $4.18 million in CARES Act funding for needs related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Much of that funding has been allocated around six priority areas — public health, business support, rental and utility assistance, support for the homeless population, child care and food security.

Commissioners earlier this month approved a $350,000 subrecipient agreement with the Clallam County Economic Development Council to provide “small businesses lifeboat” grants to local enterprises.

The proposed subrecipient agreement with OlyCAP would provide $126,800 for mortgage assistance and $88,100 for residential rental assistance, Clallam County Chief Financial Officer Mark Lane said.

Similar agreements are being developed to provide $89,900 in rent, mortgage and utility assistance to city of Port Angeles customers and $45,200 in residential utility assistance to Clallam County Public Utility District customers, Lane said.

“We’ve been talking to a number of PUDs, and as far as we’ve heard, none of them have received any CARES (Act) money,” Clallam County PUD General Manger Doug Nass told district commissioners this week.

“So we’re very fortunate to be able to work closely with the county and with the city and OlyCAP in this case.”

Meanwhile, Peninsula Daily News and OlyCAP converted the Peninsula Home Fund into the COVID-19 Relief Fund in March to create a way for neighbors to help each other through the coronavirus pandemic.

The COVID-19 Relief Fund has provided more than $186,000 for 480 Clallam and Jefferson residents hurt economically by virus precautions.

“Again, a majority of the dollars that we’ve been getting from the Peninsula Daily (News) funds, which have been amazing, go towards rental and mortgage assistance,” Cronmiller told commissioners Monday.

Cronmiller said the CARES Act money is not restricted to those below 125 percent of the poverty line.

“Those are the folks that we see sort of regularly,” Cronmiller said.

“The folks that we’re trying to help are people with good jobs, educations — our middle class — those that we rely on in the community to circulate money within the community and sustain the county overall,” Cronmiller said.

“We hear from participants that this is a huge stress relief for them, the amount of pressure that this takes off them,” she added.

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