Over the course of the pandemic, King County helped tens of thousands of renters avoid eviction and stay in their homes with our Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program (EPRAP). Since its inception, the program paid $298 million in payments to 33,482 households. As of today, 6,228 households are assigned to a provider to complete their application and determine eligibility. Another 8,857 households have pre-registered for EPRAP, but have not yet been assigned a provider.
This week, the U.S. Department of Treasury responded to King County’s January request for reallocated funding and issued an additional $5.6 million in funds for EPRAP. Based on current payment averages, this will help approximately 500 additional households that are pre-registered. Even with additional funds, King County is projecting there are more pre-registered households than there is funding available to serve them, and stopped accepting new applications at the end of February. Even with the newly awarded funds, the program is on track to spend all available rent assistance funding by the end of April.
With the success in distributing nearly $300 million in funds, County staff have also begun reviewing and auditing EPRAP transactions to determine where applicants may have misrepresented information, self-attested inaccurately, or otherwise sought or received incorrect or inappropriate payments. Since mid-February, DCHS and community provider staff have detected 106 potential misuse cases of inappropriate applications or payments, totaling less than one percent of total expenditures. As part of this review, DCHS is implementing several misuse detection and prevention strategies, and is reporting suspected cases to the appropriate authorities. The EPRAP data system, security features of ACH payments through U.S. Bank, and diligence by EPRAP community-based partners have enabled detection of 25 percent of suspected misuse cases before a potentially incorrect rent payment was made.
King County is taking any case of suspected misuse seriously and focusing on ensuring EPRAP payments were made to eligible households. To that end, King County has also contracted with a third-party auditing firm to sample audit payments and is working with local authorities and the Treasury Department to investigate specific cases. The EPRAP payment agreement requires landlords to fully cooperate with any audit regarding compliance with the terms and conditions.
While rent assistance payments will likely end in April 2022 with all available funds expended, King County EPRAP will continue to provide eviction prevention supports until June 2022. This session, the Washington legislature made significant investments in housing security, including federal coronavirus state fiscal recovery funds for rental assistance.
King County is currently exploring with the State Department of Commerce how these funds can be best put to use to prevent further evictions and continue to address the community’s long-standing housing affordability crisis.
King County will provide future updates through this blog on our efforts to identify and investigate instances of inappropriate application or other misuse of rental assistance funding. King County’s EPRAP Dashboard provides updated information about EPRAP expenditures, demographics, and by-city profiles.