Board approves emergency rent assistance increase

November 19, 2020

Multnomah County renters will receive nearly $600,000 more in federal rent assistance after Board members Thursday, Nov. 19, approved an increase in CARES Act funds for households left struggling by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The money will help eligible households who’ve been unable to pay rent, while staying housed because of an eviction moratorium, by providing up to three months of past, current or future payments. 

The funds — which amount to a 9 percent increase from the County’s initial award — come to Multnomah County’s Department of County Human Services through Oregon Housing and Community Services. State officials had previously held back the funds as a contingency to use as needed. In early October, Multnomah County opted in to receive the additional funding.

“This is on top of our initial allocation of just over $10 million from OHCS that we are administering right now and have through the end of December,” said Youth and Family Services Division Director Peggy Samolinski. 

“I’m glad we’re putting additional dollars to work,” Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson added.

The additional emergency rent assistance is expected to serve up to 150 additional families. So far, the County has served more than 1,900 households and spent or committed 62 percent of its rental assistance funding. Funds allocated through this program go directly to landlords and property owners.

The additional funding comes after the Board extended the statewide non-payment eviction moratorium for Multnomah County renters through at least Jan. 8, 2021.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Multnomah County renters already were burdened with high rents, rent increases and low vacancies. Landlord-tenant law also disadvantaged renters. Many of the impacts were felt heavily by Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities. The COVID-19 crisis has only exacerbated those conditions.

Multnomah County is distributing rental assistance funds through an established network of nonprofit providers who handle intakes, screening and application processing. The County is also making rental assistance available through Bienestar de la Familia, with referrals from 211.

Several of these providers are culturally specific and the remainder are culturally responsive. More than 78 percent of the households who’ve received CARES Act rental assistance from the state are from communities of color.

Chair Deborah Kafoury recognized “all of our nonprofit partners who are working overtime,” adding that “they have stepped up and really taken this on, because we’re all so committed to helping our neighbors.”

To qualify, Multnomah County residents must be below 80 percent of the region’s median income for their household size. Only current income will be considered. Criteria can be viewed on the Multnomah County COVID-19 Rent Relief Fund Program website. Additional unemployment income issued during the pandemic doesn’t count against eligibility. The rent assistance can also be used for:

  • Temporary housing costs, including hotel / motel payments

  • Manufactured home rental space “lot rents” or RV space for primary housing

  • Moving costs, security or utility deposits, and application fees

  • Past rent payments and late fees

“We know this isn’t enough,” Samolinski said. “We have confidence that we are going to spend it all, and the need is so deep.” 

Learn more about COVID-19 Rent Assistance and Housing Stability Resources.