Case Study: Yakima Rental Assistance Program

FORWARD Impact in Yakima,WA

  • Distributing $22M in rent and utility assistance to more than 3,700 households 
  • Households received an average grant of $3,274
  • Prevented 388 instances of fraud, resulting in significant savings of more than $6.3 million
  • Managed a coalition of local community-based organizations that provided in-person application support
  • Held three in-person rental assistance events to target underserved populations in Yakima County
  • Increased application volume by 33%, ensuring the County fully obligated funds before Treasury deadlines

“Data processing and management was a huge component of reporting for us, and being able to count on FORWARD to provide the data took a lot of capacity off the shoulders of our team so we could focus on the other things that are important within our community and responsibilities.”

Esther Magasis, Director of Human Services, Yakima County

Yakima County 2

Yakima County is a vibrant and diverse region located in the south-central area of Washington State. Covering an area of approximately 4,300 square miles, Yakima County is home to over a quarter-million residents and is the eighth-most populous county in the state. 

With very limited staffing, Yakima County did not have the capacity to effectively administer their rental assistance program at scale. Without a unified system to accept and process rental assistance applications, the County struggled to fully administer funding in a timely manner. 

In March 2022, the County contracted with FORWARD, a leading program administration solution, to administer the Yakima County Rental Assistance Program. The FORWARD team worked closely with the Yakima County Department of Human Services to provide end-to-end program administration services, including program design, application intake and processing, fraud prevention, award distribution, and reporting.

Through every step of the process, FORWARD ensured that funds were distributed securely and generated custom reporting to help the County comply with funding regulations and requirements. 

What were the challenges?

FORWARD Solutions

Many households were unaware of the rental assistance program. 

FORWARD led marketing and outreach for the program which included local media, radio ads, flyers, and social media content, in addition to outreach through community partners. 

Many households faced language or technology barriers when applying. 

FORWARD hosted three in-person events to support underserved community members that needed Spanish-language assistance or application assistance. FORWARD also offered multilingual application support via phone, text and email. 

Yakima County needed additional support to effectively and securely administer the rental assistance program.

FORWARD increased capacity for the City by bringing on a team of program managers, application reviewers, payment processors, and reporting specialists to administer the back office of the program. 

Yakima County needed to meet its reporting requirements. 

FORWARD provided a live dashboard and weekly reports to Yakima County, in addition to custom reports for the Washington State Department of Commerce to ensure the County remained in compliance with funding requirements. 

At the onset of the program, FORWARD helped the County transition from paper applications to a centralized online application model, which streamlined the application process and made rent and utility assistance more accessible to the community.

FORWARD also helped manage community partnerships and provided support for local community-based organizations, including Catholic Charities of Central Washington, Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, OIC Washington, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, and Yakima Volunteer Attorney Services, to process applications and increase access to rent and utility assistance for the people they serve.

Representatives from local community-based partners at the Sept 2023 Yakima Rent Fair
FORWARD Intake Specialist helping a Yakima County resident fill out their rental assistance application.

Recognizing that many residents in Yakima County faced technology and language barriers, FORWARD worked with the County to host three in-person rent fairs. The events were held in areas identified as underserved, and FORWARD supported the events with marketing and outreach through local media, radio ads, and community partners. In total, the in-person events served 767 households.

Comparison of Yakima Rent Fair outcomes

Community enthusiasm for the program generated from the in-person events and the marketing efforts from FORWARD resulted in a 33% increase in rental assistance application volume. 

Local news coverage of the Yakima Rental Assistance Program

With support from FORWARD, Yakima County is set to fully distribute all emergency rental assistance funding by the June 30th deadline set by the WA Department of Commerce and even received an additional $2.3M in funding. 

To date, FORWARD has administered over $22M to more than 3,700 households. From these applications, FORWARD identified and prevented 388 cases of fraud through our robust data security and fraud prevention processes, resulting in significant savings of more than $6.3 million.

FORWARD is proud to support Yakima County households through the Yakima Rental Assistance Program and efficiently and securely administer funding to help at-risk residents stay stably housed.

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