April 29, 2020
The Department of Commerce last week provided up to $1,000 in rental assistance and up to $500 in energy assistance for households that qualify for the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The crisis funding will be distributed through Commerce’s statewide network of community action agencies, and is expected to serve an estimated 5,000 eligible households.
“Imagine not having enough funds to pay rent, the heat bill, and put food on the table. Thousands of families in Washington face this predicament, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this crisis in our state,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “We are working with our partners to disperse this funding as quickly as possible.”
Community action agencies will distribute the money on a first-come, first-served basis, as long as the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order is in place. Of the $9 million available, 15% is available for rental assistance. Tenants who are behind in their rent and meet the other qualifications for crisis benefits must apply to their local community action agency. If approved, the rental assistance payment will be made directly to the landlord.
Similarly, those unable to pay their energy bills must apply through their local community action agency. When approved, the benefit is paid to the utility that serves the qualifying household.
Who can apply and how
To qualify for the COVID-19 crisis LIHEAP benefits, a household must be at 125% of the federal poverty level and have received – or will receive – a LIHEAP or Low Income Rate Assistance Program (LIRAP) benefit in the current program year (October 2019 – October 2020).
Last year, LIHEAP dispersed an average rental assistance benefit of $800 to 430 households.
In 2019, a family of four, with an annual income of $32,188, or a monthly income of $2,682, qualified for the program. See LIHEAP Eligibility Guidelines
To find out if you qualify for assistance, contact your local community action agency. An interactive map with contact information is linked here.
Commerce has implemented temporary policy changes to allow for quick, safe distribution of these funds, without personal contact. Community action agencies are accepting documents by mail, email, fax, text or telephone. Commerce implemented the program with currently available funds in anticipation of receiving federal government Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) funding to states soon.