King County tenants with low incomes can now apply for a new round of financial help to pay off rent owed during the pandemic.

As the expected June 30 end of the state’s eviction moratorium nears, the county on Tuesday opened applications for tenants who owe past rent because of the pandemic. The assistance, paid directly to landlords, is funded by $145 million in federal stimulus dollars and is the largest county rental-assistance effort so far.

To qualify, renters must live in King County and have an income of less than $40,500 for an individual and about $58,000 for a family of four. Tenants must have experienced financial hardship from the pandemic and be experiencing housing instability or at risk of homelessness.

Renters can apply for help at rent-help.kingcounty.gov. Find phone numbers for help in other languages at rent-help.kingcounty.gov/tenant. Citizenship is not required, and the county says it will not ask about immigration status.

The funding essentially works as a lottery: The county each week will select renters to receive assistance until the funds are distributed. The money can also cover unpaid utility bills.

Beyond catching up on back rent owed, the money could offer some tenants and landlords a measure of security for the coming months. The county will cover up to 12 months of total rent, including up to three months of future rent.

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The county will also distribute funding for rent assistance to local community organizations and has sought out landlords to apply for funding. So far, about 5,000 properties are signed up. Tenants will be notified if their landlord signed up. Payments to those landlords will begin in early June, according to the county.

Landlords receiving the county funds agree that if they evict a tenant while receiving county assistance, they will pay back that money. Landlords also agree to not evict tenants through the end of the year, unless the renter fails to pay after getting the county assistance, violates the lease, or poses a health or safety risk or the landlord wants to sell or move into the property.  

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King County plans to distribute about $75 million through applications from large landlords, $20 million through applications from tenants and $20 million through community organizations.

The program is the latest source of help for landlords and tenants.

The county last year distributed about $38 million to cover rent owed by 9,000 households, with the average household receiving about three months of rent at a total of $4,100. Three-quarters of households receiving assistance were Black, Indigenous or people of color, according to a county report. As part of the conditions of receiving funds last year, large landlords waived about $3.1 million in past rent, according to the county.

Across the Seattle metro area, which includes Tacoma and Bellevue, an estimated 89,475 households are currently behind on rent, about 11% of those surveyed, according to a mid-April survey from the U.S. Census.