Washington state will soon receive 2,443 emergency housing vouchers from the federal government for people living homeless or on the cusp of it.
The Biden administration announced Monday morning that $5 billion in emergency housing vouchers will flow to public housing authorities across the country, the second step of the administration’s strategy to reduce homelessness through the American Rescue Plan Act. Last month, the administration announced the allocation of another $5 billion for shelter and permanent housing through the plan.
“No person should ever have to lay their head on a park bench or street corner, beneath a highway or beside a riverbank,” said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge on a Zoom call with reporters.
The vouchers are targeted toward people who are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless, or those fleeing or trying to flee domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
About 1,300 — more than half — of the vouchers slated for Washington are headed to the King County, Seattle and Renton housing authorities, which will pool their resources and partner with King County’s Regional Homelessness Authority to distribute them.
Yet few details are available about how that will work.
Rhonda Rosenberg, spokesperson for the King County Housing Authority, said local housing authorities are still in conversation with the county’s homelessness system on how to proceed.
“The agencies are working together to create a plan and more will be known in July,” Rosenberg said.
Similar to existing Section 8 housing choice vouchers, people issued the vouchers will be able to use them until they no longer need them, according to the Seattle Housing Authority.
At Monday’s press event, Sen. Patty Murray, the Democratic senior member of Washington’s Senate delegation, touted the impact of federal lawmakers’ pandemic relief packages as “the difference between being housed and unhoused for so many people in Washington state and across the country.”
Murray also urged support for the American Jobs Plan, President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal, to boost a recovery in jobs after pandemic-era losses.
“The American Rescue Plan is helping our communities get back to normal, but that isn’t good enough when normal wasn’t working for so many before this pandemic,” Murray said.
Between 2019 and 2020, Washington state saw the third-largest increase in homelessness across the country, and nationwide, chronic homelessness grew by 15%.