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Cowlitz County contracts with CAP to distribute $6.1 million in rent, utility assistance from feds

Neighbors: Bond 01 (copy)

Charles "Chuck" Bond is seen at the Copperwood Apartments in West Longview in January 2018. Renters in Cowlitz County who are behind on their rent due to  COVID-19 hardships may be eligible to apply for help from $6.1 million allocated to the county for rent assistance.

Cowlitz County commissioners approved an agreement Tuesday with Lower Columbia CAP to distribute $6.1 million in rent and utility assistance to low-income residents affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The commissioners in mid-April approved the contract with the state Department of Commerce, accepting the nearly $7 million passed down from the U.S. Treasury Department. The program is part of the federal COVID-19 relief package passed in December, said Human Services Manager Gena James.

The money can help with 12 months of past due rent and utilities and three months of future rent in limited cases.

Commissioner Arne Mortensen voted to approve the contract, but said he believes programs like it are “destructive to our society.”

Arne Mortensen

Mortensen

“I feel my hands are tied to do something I don’t believe is in the public’s best interest,” he said.

Eligibility requirements set by the federal government include income at or below 80% of the area median income, people experiencing financial hardship because of COVID-19 and people who are at risk of homelessness or housing instability, James said.

Cowlitz County’s median family income is $71,300. A four-person family would be eligible if they earned less than $57,050, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Households applying for the assistance must provide documentation proving they are eligible and a copy of their lease, James said. The landlord or utility will verify the bill is past due and the amount. If approved, the assistance goes directly from CAP to the landlord or utility, she said.

James said as of last week, CAP had more than 700 households on a list for assistance. The organization will sort through the list and determine who is eligible, she said.

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