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A phone in clinic is offering free legal advice to low-income people. The Northwest Justice Project (NJP) has set up a phone-in clinic with the goal of helping low-income renters effected by COVID-19 in Yakima and Kittitas County. The clinic is open Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon, at 509-574-4234.

In March, Gov. Jay Inslee issued an “eviction moratorium,” which was then expanded in April. This moratorium limited the reasons a landlord could evict a tenet and was put in place due to the effect the COVID-19 outbreak had on the economy, and the fact that many low-income individuals lost their jobs. On June 4, the moratorium expires.

NJP Staff Attorney Meredith Bruch, said the clinic was opened to help people find out what their options are and that they meet their future obligations. She said the clinic is there to help people in need, through legal advice and sometimes court appearances. The clinic deals primarily in COIVD-19-related housing issues, for other legal problems people can call the statewide line 888-201-1014.

“We expect that after the governor’s eviction moratorium ends on June 4, there will be a large number of tenets who have not been able to pay rent and will have to figure out how to pay that rent going forward so that they can remain in their housing,” Bruch said.

The NJP has three attorneys working at the call center, so it may be hard for callers to reach the professionals. Bruch said the NJP will get a callback number from the caller, so they can be helped at a later time. People are encouraged to call because the NJP wants to help as many people as possible.

People who are eligible for this service are those who can be defined as low-income. Bruch said people who are low-income are those who are no more than 200 percent over the federal poverty level. This is based off household size and can vary accordingly.

Those calling the center should have some paperwork ready. Bruch said people should know how much each member of their household is earning. For example, a family of four may only have two working parents, the clinic needs to know the monthly earning of those parents. It is also important to know the general household monthly expenses.

Any asset value should also be known. If a household has a vehicle, it is important to know how expensive that vehicle is. However, Bruch said the clinic will take people at their word for that number, so they do not have to have proof.

It is important for people to be honest when talking with these attorneys. If it is discovered later that people didn’t report their full income, they may become ineligible for services.

An example of a service the clinic may be able to help with is a case where parents can’t pay rent because they have to pay for child care for their kids now that school is closed.

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