T-RAP the TikTok T-Rex Has a Message for Lewis County on Rental Help

By Claudia Yaw / cyaw@chronline.com

T-RAP, your favorite local T-Rex, has an embassy for young adults in Lewis County. And it comes in the form of a TikTok: rental assistance is still available and the process of being insured for up to 15 months is easier than you think.

Lewis County Housing Authorities and the Salvation Army took an unconventional approach to reaching 18- to 24-year-olds with rent by using a TikTok trend (and two inflatable dinosaur costumes) to get the word out.

Before the Centralia Salvation Army, Captain and Corps Officer Gin Pack hired her husband to help her with the “chopping dance” – a trend that has captured the social media platform. It took the help of at least one local TikTok expert (a teenager) to figure it out. So far, the cheeky video has had more than 800 views.

Ultimately, the video – with the now TikTok-famous song “The Magic Bomb” by Hoàng Read – raises frequent questions about the Treasury Rent Assistance Program (T-RAP).

(See the full video here: https://www.tiktok.com/@clevername_1/video/6993801119923309830?lang=en&is_copy_url=0&is_from_webapp=v1&sender_device=pc&sender_web_id=6923326776966153734)

“Do I have to be from Lewis County, WA?”

Yup!

“How much can I qualify for?”

Up to 15 months!

“Is the application process tough?”

Nope!

“How can I get more information?”

360-736-4339, 303 N. Gold St., Centralia

The idea came to Pack and Lewis County’s Housing Coordinator Meja Handlen earlier this year, though it was put on hold when officials combed a T-RAP waiting list of 300 people.

Pack said young residents need to know that aid wasn’t given. In fact, around $ 450,000 only needs to be distributed to those 18 to 24 year olds. The program includes both rent and ancillary costs.

“Statistically, this is the bracket that kids will have,” said Pack.

It is therefore important to help them stay afloat in order to break generational cycles of poverty. Also, according to Pack, these are the locals who were hit earliest and hardest by the pandemic, as they were more likely to have service jobs.

Earlier this year it was estimated that 200,000 Washingtoners were behind on rent. And that month, 1,193 Lewis County residents were so late in their utility payments that they would be taken offline without a statewide moratorium.

The state eviction moratorium expires on September 30th.

“We just don’t want people to be expelled for non-payment,” said Pack.

To be eligible, 18- to 24-year-olds must be below 80% of the median income in the region. It’s a pretty liberal requirement compared to other programs, Pack said. In Lewis County, the median income for a person is $ 26,381 and $ 53,484 for a household.

Over the phone, officers will ask about five screening questions. From then on, expect to make an appointment in about a week and a half. These meetings are quick and to the point – only about 20 minutes, according to Pack. And in 10 days the money could be transferred directly to the landlord.

“It’s a pretty quick turnaround,” said Pack.

Of the 15 rental months that T-RAP can potentially cover, three can be for future months. Landlords can also initiate the procedure for tenants who are in arrears.

“Call us. We’re pretty flexible, ”said Pack, adding that more TikToks are in the works.

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