Seattle, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray held a roundtable discussion with Seattle housing providers and nonprofits to hear about housing issues in the city during the COVID-19 pandemic and how previous relief funding has assisted people who are housing insecure, as well as to discuss how the American Rescue Plan will help to keep people housed and provide support for people who are currently unhoused. Senator Murray was joined by Darryl Smith, Executive Director of HomeSight; Gordon McHenry, Jr., President and CEO of United Way King County; and Shalimar Gonzales, CEO of Solid Ground.
“We were already grappling with a housing crisis before this pandemic, but COVID-19 has only exacerbated those challenges. That’s why I fought to secure major provisions in the American Rescue Plan that will help keep people housed and support those who are currently unhoused,” said Senator Murray. “The American Rescue Plan will be a lifeline for so many Washington state families, but we have a lot more work to do if we want to address the housing crisis directly. Getting back to normal isn’t good enough when normal already wasn’t working for too many families. That’s why I wanted to hear directly from local leaders who are on the ground here in Seattle, working every day to keep folks housed. I’ll be taking these stories with me back to the other Washington to fight for major investments in housing infrastructure to help keep Washington state families safe, secure, and housed.”
The American Rescue Plan includes $404 million in emergency rental and utility assistance for Washington state, as part of $21.55 billion nationally, as well as a percentage of $9.96 billion nationally in assistance for homeowners struggling to afford their mortgage payments and other housing costs, $5 billion nationally for new emergency Housing Choice Vouchers (administered by Public Housing Authorities), and $5 billion nationally for supportive services and non-congregate housing solutions for people experiencing homelessness. The rental assistance is distributed through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program created in the December COVID relief package, and the homeowner assistance will be distributed through a new Housing Assistance Fund administered by the Department of Treasury. Additionally, the bill includes $7.1 billion for Washington state and local governments, some of which can go towards local housing aid.
“In 2020…we help 77 families avoid the next steps toward foreclosure directly because there were Cares Act dollars that came through the federal government. We were essentially able to partner with other organizations like the WA State Housing Finance Commission, Urban League of Metro Seattle, and others to make sure we could help those facing foreclosure,” said Darryl Smith, Executive Director of HomeSight. “Without those dollars, we’re looking at 77 families that would have a very, very different picture of their family life in the world today had that not happened.”
“Homelessness was a crisis in our region before the pandemic, and it disproportionately affected Black and Indigenous people the hardest. The economic devastation caused by COVID has left even more of our communities of color on the verge of losing their homes. The housing funds from the American Rescue Plan will go directly to minimize the pandemic’s economic impact, but we hope this is just the beginning of a more sustained effort,” said Gordon McHenry, Jr., United Way of King County President and CEO.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had and will continue to have devastating impacts on the communities that Solid Ground serves, especially when it comes to housing. The federal investments and policies championed by Sen. Murray are critical if we want to ensure that the disproportionately large effects of this pandemic for low income and BIPOC families do not continue. I applaud her leadership and encourage us all to think big in order to not just recover from this pandemic but build a future that ends poverty,” Shalimar Gonzales, CEO of Solid Ground.
The American Rescue Plan comes after a year of Senator Murray advocating for increased housing assistance to combat the effects of the pandemic on renters, homeowners, and people experiencing homelessness. In the December COVID relief package, Senator Murray helped to secure $507 million for Washington state and $25 billion nationally for states, Tribes, and territories to provide rental and utility assistance, and last year, Senator Murray helped secure over $100 million in Emergency Solutions Grants for Washington state through the CARES Act, which provided a critical lifeline for people and families experiencing or facing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, Senator Murray has already announced more than $100 million in federal awards to combat housing insecurity and invest in public housing infrastructure across Washington state.