Millions in rental assistance coming available after moratorium ended this week

Some Salem renters got a notice on their door this week, advising them the eviction moratorium has come to an end on June 30, 2021. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)

Millions of dollars are flowing to Marion and Polk county renters who have been unable to pay rent during the pandemic and now face a ticking clock to pay up or face eviction.

Oregon’s eviction moratorium ended Wednesday and while there’s a provision which allows a 60-day grace period for renters who’ve sought assistance, the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency is hustling to get about $1 million spent each week over the next three months.

“This is going to be a very stressful time on everybody,” said Jimmy Jones, the agency’s executive director.

The social service provider last week began spending $14 million it was allocated through the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which Jones estimates will help around 1,915 households. Last week they dedicated $1.1 million of the federal money.

“It’s a fraction of what the need is out there,” Jones said.

He said 2,600 people locally have applied for rent help through Oregon Housing and Community Services, which has an online portal for people to apply statewide. 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.

The funding can pay for back rent and future rent payments.

Community action previously distributed two other rounds of funding, one that had to be spent by December and the other by June 30.

Half of those helped through the program were Hispanic or Latino, despite Latinos making up about a quarter of Marion County’s population, according to Census data.

Jones said the average household got $7,300 through funding allocated by the state Legislature in December.

Portland State University’s Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative published a report this week that said Oregon could spend $720 million to $4.7 billion to respond to evictions if more renter protections aren’t put in place.

Jones said he believes the eviction moratorium expiration will lead to a wave of evictions statewide.

That’s why the added 60-day grace period is so important, he said. It gives the agency time to work through hundreds and hundreds of applications.

He said there’s a high probability that a lot of households don’t know about the resources that are available.

Marion County has the fifth-highest amount of past-due rent of any Oregon county, according to a data analysis by the National Equity Atlas, a project of the University of Southern California Equity Research Institute and PolicyLink, a California-based research and advocacy group. 

Renters in Marion County owe a combined $12.8 million in back rent, just behind what’s owed in Lane County and the three counties that make up the Portland area.

Marion County got $20.8 million in emergency rental assistance from the federal Department of the Treasury and expects to have more information about how that will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

Jolene Kelley, county spokeswoman, said the county is in the process of setting up its program and expects it to go live in late July.

The first round of funding, $10.4 million, is for households making at or below 80% of median income, with past due rent or utilities, collecting unemployment and who have experienced a loss of income due to Covid.

Those making less than 50% of the area’s median income will be prioritized as well as those with one member of the household that has been unemployed for 90 days or more.

In Salem, a three-person household making less than $31,850 per year would qualify.

The county will also prioritize seniors, families, Santiam Canyon wildfire victims and those referred by Marion County department programs. 

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] 

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