Senator Murray Hears from Spokane Renters About How the American Rescue Plan is Lowering their Housing Costs, Announces Major Utility Assistance for Washington State

Senator Murray met virtually with housing providers and renters from Spokane to discuss how relief from the American Rescue Plan has helped families make rent

Senator Murray also announced $143.6 million in home heating cost relief for Washington state families with low incomes, the most the state has ever received


(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) joined renters and housing providers from Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners (SNAP) to discuss how the American Rescue Plan Act has helped provide rental and energy assistance to families in Spokane County. Senator Murray also outlined her commitment to securing further federal investments in affordable housing however she can. Notably, flexible American Rescue Plan dollars provided to Washington state as part of the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, the majority of which have not yet been spent, can also be used for emergency housing assistance in addition to the development of affordable housing and permanent supportive housing.

Senator Murray was joined on the call by Julie Honekamp, CEO of SNAP, Chelsey Dunham, manager of the Rental Assistance Program at SNAP, Amy, a SNAP client, and Rachel, a SNAP client.

“Thanks to SNAP and other organizations, so much of the housing relief in the American Rescue Plan has already gone out to communities in Spokane County. And as I’ve heard from folks across the state—this American Rescue Plan assistance can mean all the difference when it comes to making rent and keeping a roof over your head,” said Senator Murray. We’re still not done seeing the full impact that the American Rescue Plan will have on housing affordability in Washington state, but I want to be clear—we need to do more to tackle our housing crisis in a meaningful way, and I committed to doing everything I can to secure a major, long-term federal investment in affordable housing.”

Senator Murray has been a strong advocate for housing investments, securing more than $400 million in rental assistance, $170 million in homeowner assistance, over 2,400 new Emergency Housing Vouchers, and nearly $100 million for housing and services to support people experiencing homelessness in Washington state specifically through the American Rescue Plan.

“Because of the American Rescue Plan, the rental assistance money we’ve needed has come through. SNAP has been able to deliver over $20 million in rental assistance in the past 16 months. But the need is still really strong right now,” said Julie Honekamp, CEO of SNAP. “We didn’t even have a rental assistance program in early 2020, so we had to stand it up, get it ready, and get that money deployed, and we’re grateful we had the partnerships we did. Some of that money is coming straight from the Treasury Department to the County to us, and some has flowed down from the Commerce Department to the County to us, and the County has done a great job of getting that money out quick.”

“SNAP had helped us before with energy assistance, but I had no idea about the rental assistance. A friend who works for SNAP told me they had this assistance if you’re behind on your rent, and I was behind on my rent. We were able to get that rental assistance pushed through, and with the housing assistance they worked with my landlord and got all that figured out,” said Rachel, a SNAP client. “We’re quarantining right now, but we have that bit of assurance that our rent is paid for a month or two. It’s just so scary to not know where your rent payment is going to come from. So having that help when you need it is incredible.”

“Senator, thank you so much for your work on this, since a lot of us don’t get a voice on these issues. I’m coming to you from my home office here, and it’s the rental assistance that allows me to do that,” said Amy, a SNAP client. “When I couldn’t meet my bills, I was able to turn to SNAP to help me meet my rent and utilities. The ripple effect it has to get help on things like that allowed my kids to have a Christmas, and allowed their mother to be present cause she wasn’t worried about how she was going to pay the rent and bills. So I’m so excited about the assistance you were able to get and for SNAP.”

During the call, Senator Murray also announced major home energy relief from the American Rescue Plan for Washington state families to help them cover the costs of home heating and stay warm through the winter. The $143.6 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding comes from the American Rescue Plan, in addition to annual federal appropriations, and will specifically go to families with low-incomes.

“As I’ve heard from renters and homeowners, housing costs are just one piece of the puzzle,” said Senator Murray. “As temperatures drop in the winter and heating bills go up, utility assistance is essential for families dealing with rising costs. Which is why I fought to include substantial heating assistance in the American Rescue Plan and why I am glad to announce today that Washington state will be receiving more than $140 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funds through the American Rescue Plan—the most Washington state has ever received.”

In addition to the $57.4 million in LIHEAP funding that Washington state was set to receive from annual federal appropriations, Senator Murray pushed to include an additional $86.2 million for the state in the American Rescue Plan. The American Rescue Plan also provided homeowners and renters with utility and energy relief to prevent families from experiencing shutoffs due to difficulties paying expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

LIHEAP helps keep families safe and healthy through initiatives that assist families with energy costs. The program provides federally funded assistance to households to help them manage costs associated with home energy bills, energy crises, weatherization and energy-related minor home repairs. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Murray has been a longtime proponent of LIHEAP, pushing to increase funding for the program each year.

Senator Murray has continued working to ensure people in across the state have the federal support they need to keep a roof over their heads, and is pushing for the largest federal investment in affordable housing support and rental assistance in the Build Back Better package that Senate Democrats are currently negotiating.