Local housing leaders met with U.S. Senator Patty Murray on Wednesday at Olympia to talk about the American Rescue Plan Act and how the funding has helped local housing programs.
The American Rescue Plan Act was introduced and passed to help the United States recover from COVID-19. The $1.9 trillion package was signed into law by President Joe Biden in early 2021.
Craig Chance, Executive Director of the Housing Authority of Thurston County, Karen McVea, Director of Housing Assistance for the Housing Authority, Margaret Salazar, HUD Regional Administrator for the Pacific Northwest, and a local recipient of HUD funding US bailout were present for the discussion.
McVea told Murray that the Emergency Housing Voucher program, which falls under the American Rescue Plan Act, has made “all the difference in the world.” She said the funding enabled the Housing Authority to help pay off old debts for beneficiaries who needed accommodation, as well as helping people obtain household goods.
Additionally, with the additional funding, McVea said the Housing Authority was able to hire a housing navigator. Housing navigators help people overcome barriers to housing by helping with paperwork, connecting people to appropriate services and helping find housing, McVea said.
“To say this program was a success would be a dramatic understatement,” added Salazar.
Salazar said around 95% of emergency housing vouchers are currently being used. More than 30,000 families in the United States have obtained housing through the program, Salazar said. Additionally, she said HUD awarded the Housing Authority of Thurston County $1.14 million for 68 housing vouchers.
The housing authority’s first EHV recipient told Murray how they were able to find housing after fleeing a domestic violence situation. Shelters were full, so they stayed in a car or in small villages of origin until they could connect with a navigator who helped them find services. They now have full-time jobs helping homeless people, they said.
Although the U.S. bailout provided funding for housing, health care and childcare, local leaders and Murray agreed there was still more to be done.
“Injecting that money into the US bailout to make sure we had the vouchers…was critically important,” Murray said. “We still have so much work to do.”
Murray added that housing supply is the number one issue she hears about.
“We have a supply problem,” Murray said. “I am really pleased that the president has presented a budget with the housing provision fund.”
In May, the president announced a plan to increase housing supply nationwide, which Murray said she supported and would help push through the appropriations committee, on which she sits.
The proposal would add another $50 billion to federal housing programs. The Biden administration estimates the program would increase housing supply by adding 500,000 new homes.