Multnomah County, the City of Portland, and a network of community providers are preparing for the end of the state’s eviction moratorium by mobilizing to keep renters in their homes.
Leaders from the Joint Office of Homeless Services and Department of County Human Services delivered an update on Multnomah County’s rent assistance response Thursday, June 17, outlining a coordinated response to protect renters at risk of eviction when the statewide eviction moratorium expires on June 30, 2021.
Since the pandemic began, the partners have distributed $42 million in rent assistance to more than 6,800 households. The network is working to distribute close to $100 million as quickly and equitably as possible to prevent evictions in July.
“Make no mistake, once the moratorium is lifted, the goal of getting rent assistance to the households most at risk of eviction for non-payment will still present a huge challenge,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said. “Our highest priority remains using that funding to keep people in their homes and minimizing the number of evictions to the furthest extent possible.”
For Multnomah County renters, the end of the statewide eviction moratorium means they must pay their current rent each month starting July to avoid being evicted. Tenants who have unpaid rent from April 2020 to June 2021 have until February 28, 2022 to pay the amount due. Those unable to pay the July rent are at most immediate risk of eviction. That’s why the County is urging people to apply for assistance as soon as possible.
“Eviction prevention support is a critical need in this community so, to respond to this, we and our partners have shifted some of our resources to address both unpaid rent debt and provide some emergency response to evictions,” said Youth and Family Services Division Director Peggy Samolinski.
Tenants urged apply for rent assistance for July, back rent
Renters who need help paying for July rent or back rent that accrued between April 2020 and June 2021 can apply for assistance through the statewide Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program portal, also known as Allita.
Beginning July 1, tenants who receive an eviction notice for nonpayment of rent are urged to call 2-1-1 if they. 211 will complete a screening with the tenant and refer them to Bienestar de la Familia. Bienestar is central to the County’s eviction prevention strategy and has successfully distributed food, rent assistance, and wraparound services throughout the pandemic.
County, partners are ready to help
Bienestar is creating a team of at least 13 staff members that will receive daily referrals from 211, with more on-call staff to process applications. Within 24 hours, Bienestar will follow up with the tenant, complete the eligibility application, and confirm eligibility with the landlord. The County will then issue a direct payment to the landlord.
If the volume of applications begins to stretch the capacity of this new team, DCHS may activate a pool of on-call County staff to keep up with demand.
“Every application in that system, over 7,500 right now, has to be looked at,” Samolinski said. “It’s a people-driven process. Applications have to be looked at for accuracy and completion, and people have to make sure all that information is complete and accurate in the system before they push the button for the payment to process.”
Multnomah County and its partners are also working to enhance accessibility, including culturally specific outreach, events where people can apply for rent assistance, and phone-based support from providers. The County’s network of more than 40 community-based organizations is prepared to provide on-the-ground support to those who lack internet access.
“As we head into rent assistance and the planning work for that, we are doubling down on our commitment to lead with race and ensuring that communities with the largest burden of this pandemic are centered,” said Yesenia Delgado from the Joint Office of Homeless Services.
The County is also enhancing legal support for tenants at risk of eviction, with the goal of preventing cases from moving to court. A team of lawyers will review court dockets for eviction notices and reach out to tenants to represent them.
Multnomah County and providers will monitor the landscape throughout the month of July and take additional measures as needed. But given the statewide impact of the crisis, the Board of County Commissioners has pressured the State to take further action to protect renters.
This legislative session, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 282, which extends the repayment grace period to February 2022. The County is also closely following a new proposed amendment to Senate Bill 278, which would protect renters unable to pay July or August rent who have already applied for rent assistance.
“If this effort to amend SB 278 succeeds -- and I hope it will -- the County’s new rent assistance teams will be ready to take advantage of the time bought by these new protections by processing and distributing millions of dollars in rent assistance as soon as we launch our eviction prevention program on July 1,” Chair Kafoury said. “Call your state senator and let them know how important it is.”
Learn more about how the County is protecting renters and how to apply for rent assistance.