OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP, KOIN) — Hours after the Biden administration extended the nationwide ban on evictions for a month, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced he was extending state protections to Sept. 30, with some modifications.
Inslee said in a press conference on Thursday he wanted to ensure that federal COVID-19 relief funds intended for rental assistance are able to be accessed in time and that programs approved by state lawmakers, including a “right to counsel” measure that ensures low-income tenants have legal representation when faced with an eviction, are up and running before moratorium protections were fully lifted.
“These funds and programs are intended to be available in every county,” Inslee said. “This extension is a bridge to support renters and landlords until those resources are available.”
The governor said this bridge is not an extension of the existing moratorium but will be updated and altered. The Office of the Governor highlights the following points:
- For past rent due from Feb. 29, 2020 through July 31, 2021, landlords are prohibited from evicting a tenant until there is an operational rental assistance program and eviction resolution program in place in their county. Landlords are prohibited from treating previous unpaid rent or other charges as an enforceable debt until the landlord and tenant have been provided with an opportunity to resolve nonpayment through an eviction resolution pilot program.
- Beginning August 1, renters are expected to pay full rent, reduced rent negotiated with the landlord or actively seek rental assistance funding. Landlords may only evict a tenant if none of those actions are being taken but must offer the tenant a reasonable re-payment plan before beginning the eviction process. Tenants must also be provided, in writing, the services and support available.
- Hotels and motels, Airbnbs, long-term care facilities and other non-traditional housing are exempt from the order.
The full proclamation will be issued in the coming days.
Before announcing the bridge proclamation for the eviction moratorium, a winner of the state’s “Shot of a Lifetime” joined Inslee at the podium.
The “Shot of a Lifetime” is Washington’s COVID vaccination incentive program. The winner is Marissa P., a pre-nursing student from Spokane and she joined Gov. Inslee to receive her $250,000 check for her part in the vaccination effort. Inslee said she is a young leader and that he could not think of a “better person” to accept this prize.
“I am so honored to be here and I feel so blessed to be here,” Marissa said. “I just want to say, stay healthy, stay safe and go get vaccinated!”
Inslee was also joined by the state’s Department of Health Secretary Umair Shah.
Shah said the DOH had a briefing on Wednesday to look at the state’s vaccination numbers. Although the projected reopening date of June 30 is rapidly approaching, Washington is still shy of the 70% vaccination rate.
“We’re hopeful we can get an influx of people to be able to get vaccinated… so that we can get there sooner,” he said. “But regardless if we get there a couple of days before June 30 or on June 30, the most important thing to recognize is that this pandemic continues. While June is an important milestone for all of us, our vaccination efforts will absolutely continue.”
Shah implored people to continue their common-sense measures to stay safe against the coronavirus, highlighting the upcoming holiday weekend.
“This is not the time to wait [to get vaccinated],” Inslee said. “I hope people will follow Marissa in life-saving measures.”
Washington has not yet fully re-opened. At a press conference on June 17, Inslee said the state uses data for people 16-and-older in their statistics for re-opening. A week ago, the state’s vaccination rate stood at 67.2%.
“Many people, myself included, are eager for our state to fully reopen,” Inslee said then. “I have said repeatedly we are going to do this on June 30 or when we hit 70% of people 16 and up initiating vaccinations — whichever happens first.”
Both The Associated Press and KOIN 6 News contributed to this report.