Legislature throws another lifeline to those struggling to pay rent

The sign at The ARCHES Project. (Anthony McGuire/Special to Salem Reporter)

Renters and homeowners impacted by job loss or illness during the coronavirus pandemic will soon get another infusion of cash to help pay for living expenses.

On Friday, state lawmakers approved an additional $75 million for rental assistance across the state. The Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency will distribute $4.5 million of that money locally along with other community partners Polk County Family and Community Outreach; Love, Inc in Woodburn and Sheltering Silverton.

Initially, Oregon’s Legislative Emergency Board approved $8.5 million for rental assistance in April for local community action agencies to distribute. But that money had more restrictive criteria and could only go to people making 50% of the median income or below.

The funds that are about to become available in July are available for those making 80% of the median income or under. In Salem, a four-person household making $55,500 or less would qualify.

To schedule an appointment, call the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency at 503-585-6232.

Jimmy Jones, executive director of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, said that since the first round of funding became available the demand has been very high.

Jones said his agency is hiring an additional 10 to 12 staff to handle calls because they’ve been receiving a couple hundred a day.

With the newly freed up money, he said his agency should be able to help around 2,000 households.

Jones said he isn’t sure how the expiration of Gov. Kate Brown’s rent moratorium at the end of June will impact demand.

He said he’s seen a lot of two parent households where one parent lost income, but rent is unchanged.

“Their family budget is pretty much the same as it was before COVID,” Jones said. “That makes it really tough and makes the margin on which they survive on much tighter.”

Because the need is so great, he said there will be no cap on the amount of money a family can receive under the new program.

 “Our goal is to stabilize the family situation,” Jones said, adding for some that might mean a month of rental assistance and for others it might mean four months. 

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