Following the unprecedented distribution of $318.5 million in funds to thousands of King County households through the Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program (EPRAP), the Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) is seeking a thorough third-party audit of all payments, alongside several additional safety measures to prevent misuse. DCHS’s goal remains to maximize all available funds for assisting eligible EPRAP applicants. Recovering inappropriate payments is an important part of helping eligible households. In an effort to distribute funds at a faster rate, the U.S. Treasury created rules on self-attestation, meaning renters could provide written statements attesting that their household meets eligibility requirements. King County quickly adopted these guidelines to accelerate distribution of funds, while also instituting internal controls that would detect and monitor for waste, abuse, and misuse. Since mid-February, DCHS and community provider staff have detected 130 potential cases of inappropriate applications or payments, totaling less than one percent of the total funds distributed. Of the 130 cases, 30 were caught prior to the distribution of funds. For the remaining cases, issues range from identity theft (14%), potential misrepresentation in the tenant or landlord leasing documents (60%), or were flagged by a financial institution fraud department or third-party report (26%). “After multiple months administering $40 million or more in rent assistance to thousands of households, we see clearly that there will still be unassisted applicants when we exhaust EPRAP funds in May. Seeking more funding, continuing to process applications, and recovering inappropriate payments are all ways to keep helping as many people as possible. We take all cases of inappropriate payment seriously, and we created strong internal controls from the beginning to minimize cases of inappropriate payment or abuse,” said Leo Flor, Director of DCHS.
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