City of Tacoma offers $1.2 million to help tenants struggling to pay rent amid COVID-19

TACOMA, Wash. -- Despite rent being due on the first of the month, Governor Jay Inslee extended his original order to June 4th preventing landlords from evicting tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, people are stressed about not being able to pay their bills including rent.

“I’ve been worried about that for a long time, honestly,” said Gel Featherweight, a tenant in Tacoma.

Featherweight said he lost his job three weeks ago because of the coronavirus outbreak. He said he’s strapped for cash right now and is waiting to receive a stimulus check. Featherweight said he also applied for unemployment benefits and the assistance should help him pay bills.

“It’s kind of hard getting through phone calls and getting through to resources, the government. Even unemployment—it took me three weeks just to get through to do my claim. Now I’m just waiting for back pay,” said Featherweights. ““You’re kind of at the mercy of whatever the system is going to give you. You don’t know, you can’t even rush it.”

The City of Tacoma is offering its “Rental Assistance Program” to help ease the burden in these tough times.

“That certainly causes a lot of instability for families who may have had a guaranteed paycheck at one time and now they are looking at how can we meet needs, such as rent,” said Allyson Griffith, assistant director of Neighborhood and Community Services.

The city has $1.2 million set aside in its housing trust fund to support this help. Renters who are eligible to apply could receive up to $1,000 dollars to help cover their housing expenses.

“They need to have experienced a loss of income related to COVID-19. SO, if they can demonstrate that through either an application for unemployment or a letter from an employer, whatever documentation they might have,” said Griffith.

Griffith explained the program hopes to focus on families who are low income. Those approved will receive a one-time payment.

“They have to have a household income at 50 percent of the area median income for Pierce County or below,” said Griffith.

As so many tenants try to budget their lives in these uncertain times, Featherweights said he’s working on his plans just to get by.

“I’ve had friends that have tried to help with resources and stuff like that,” said Featherweights. “We all have to do our part to take care of each other as much as possible, especially now.”

Those interested in applying can do so online through May 6th. The City of Tacoma scheduled a virtual town hall for Thursday evening to talk about the program.