Use of Self-attestations will be the key to faster EPRAP payments

The Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program (EPRAP) has now paid $49.8 million in rent assistance since January 2021, including last week’s $3.4 million in assistance. 2021 totals so far are in addition to more than $37 million paid in 2020. Payments in 2021 have been made to landlords in the form of both advances and rental payments in arrears. In September, the program served more households – 913 – than any previous month. Thanks to the increased staff on the ground, EPRAP moved more people into active status last week and is working one-on-one to answer questions and work with both tenants and landlords to complete applications.

While EPRAP payments were higher in September 2021 than in any previous month, King County and our community partners are working to increase payments—both the number of households served and the total amount of assistance provided—at an even greater rate.  One powerful tool to increase rates of payment is full use of recent federal changes that allow for increased use of attestations to simplify and speed rent assistance applications.

What is “attestation” and why is it important?

The new ability for tenants and landlords to “attest” has caused some confusion. Many EPRAP applications that are currently in the EPRAP system were initiated under previous federal rules that required landlords and tenants to provide extensive documentation, offering attestation only as a last resort and then reducing the amount of assistance that an applicant could receive. Both landlords and tenants may be confused about how to move forward now that attestations are allowed for most critical application information. Landlords and tenants may now be asking if it is it really “enough” to self-attest to facts in the application, or whether they should go ahead and provide the documentation anyway, just to be safe?  

Attestation defined

Attestation significantly simplifies the application process and that is why King County adopted the change. 

Attestation: To affirm to be correct, true or genuine. To certify by signature or oath.

Instead of scanning and loading multiple documents into an electronic database, landlords and tenants, or even a caseworker on their behalf, can now simply complete a form that asks questions about income, impacts of COVID on the household, housing instability, and amount of rent due per the lease. To ensure proper stewardship of public resources, King County will in some cases conduct follow up verifications of application information that landlords and tenants attest to.

Use of attestation does not affect the amount of assistance an applicant can receive

Previous federal rules allowed attestation instead of documentation, but doing so limited tenants to receiving only three months of rent assistance. This is no longer true! Use of attestation by landlords and tenants no longer reduces the amount of assistance that applicants can receive. With the new guidance, tenants and landlords who attest can receive the full twelve months of rent support (nine months of back or current rent and three months in advance, for a maximum of twelve months).

The U.S. Treasury changed the requirements for rental assistance documentation, recognizing that loading so many documents electronically was time-consuming, created multiple openings for data errors, was very confusing for people with limited English proficiency, and slowed application processing times across the country. In response, the federal government opened the door to self-attestation and King County immediately moved to implement the change.

Once it was clear that attestation would not limit the amount of available assistance, King County began immediately to streamline training, create new templates, and revise the data system to adjust to the changes. King County piloted the efficiencies and effectiveness of the expedited process, and is rolling it out system-wide this week. We are excited to see the impact this change in process has on the amount of rent payments in the coming weeks. We urge all program applicants and our community partners to fully embrace the use of attestation as a way to speed up application processing and increase the amount of assistance provided to the community.

Tenants and landlords currently in the system are being encouraged to complete the application via the expedited processes. EPRAP staff and community-based partners are shifting their approach and working directly with every applicant to get it right so payments can be made!

Number of Households in the Program

Since Jan. 1, 2021 to Oct. 10, 2021:

  • Households that have applied for rental assistance: 28,953
  • Households currently working with or have worked with a community-based organization to receive rental assistance: 15,851
  • Households that have been paid: 4,948
  • Large Landlord Accounts Receiving Advanced Funds: 81 large landlord accounts (349 owners) have received advanced funds.

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