Legislature sends $175M rental assistance bill to governor

EastIdahoNews.com file photo

NAMPA (AP) — Residents of Idaho could see millions of dollars in rental assistance during the pandemic if the governor signs a bill authorizing the spending.

The Idaho Senate unanimously voted on Thursday to authorize the spending of $175 million in rental assistance from funds the state was granted under a coronavirus relief bill signed into law in December by former President Donald Trump, the Idaho Press reported.

The bill previously passed the House and will next head to Republican Gov. Brad Little for consideration. Little’s spokeswoman, Marissa Morrison, said Friday the bill will likely reach the governor’s desk next week, and that Little doesn’t comment on pending legislation before it reaches his office.

The money is part of about $900 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds that have been languishing since the Idaho legislative session began in January.

Democratic state Sen. Ali Rabe voiced her support for the bill and disclosed a potential conflict of interest under Senate ethics rules because of her work for Jesse Tree of Idaho, a housing organization.

“I work directly in eviction court in my other job, and I know that more and more families are in need of rental assistance,” Rabe said.

A third of residents in Treasure Valley, which includes Boise, “are literally living paycheck to paycheck, month to month,” and any large unanticipated expense could push them out of their home, she said.

Rabe said there were over 1,800 eviction filings in the state last year, most because people can’t pay their rent.

Republican state Sen. Jim Woodward, the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, said payments under the program would go to landlords, property managers or utility companies, not to the renters themselves.