Demand is high for rent help as service agency prepares to hand out second round of funding

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

Nearly 2,000 Salem-area families are vying for help to pay rent as the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency prepares for another round of aid to those impacted by the pandemic.

“The amount of need is blowing my mind,” said Ashley Hamilton, program manager at The ARCHES Project.

Hamilton said the last round of funding, which had to be spent by the end of 2020, served 1,400 households.

The average household got $13,000 out of a pot of $6.6 million in state and federal funding meant to address those struggling to pay rent.

On Dec. 21, the state Legislature passed a bill which extended Oregon’s eviction moratorium until June 30 and made $50 million available for rental assistance. Locally, $2.9 million will be available.

The moratorium was first put in place through an executive order by Gov. Kate Brown in March as the pandemic struck Oregon. The idea behind the moratorium is to prevent tenants who’ve lost income because of the pandemic from losing their housing and having to crowd in with friends, relatives or shelters where the virus can easily spread.

Now, there are 1,402 households on the wait list to receive help and another 530 households are waiting to be screened.

Applicants need to prove they’ve been impacted by the coronavirus, either through lost income or illness, and must be making 80% of the area’s median income or below.

In Salem, a family of three making less than $50,850 would qualify.

Hamilton said there’s also federal money coming to Salem, but she’s not sure how much that will be yet.

The goal is to have the money spent by June 30, she said.

She said her agency wants to do more outreach to the Latino community, and potentially subcontract grants to Polk County.

About half of the people helped in the first round identified as Hispanic, she said. Another 12% were from Polk County, a number which Hamilton wants to boost in the second round because Polk County represents a quarter of the service district. 

“I think we should be broadening our service delivery out to these communities and that’s going to be a focus for me this second round,” she said. “I would like to be able to be more robust in our focus on making sure everyone knows about our services regardless of nation of origin, culture, community language.”

Are you worried about your ability to pay rent because of the pandemic? Have you been helped by the moratorium on evictions? Are you worried about losing your housing? Salem Reporter wants to hear from you. Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected].

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