Help for Orcas islanders from OPAL mortgage and rental assistance

  • Mon May 18th, 2020 1:30am
  • Life

Submitted by the OPAL Community Land Trust

As of May 14, OPAL had received 182 requests to help pay rent or mortgage from islanders who had lost income due to COVID-19.

Using donations made to both the Orcas Island Community Foundation’s Emergency Response Fund and directly to OPAL Community Land Trust, OPAL staff members have processed 119 direct payments to landlords and banks and provided financial counseling to 33 households without making direct payments. As a result of this help, all of these households have been able to stay in their homes.

As part of the process, every applicant had to show that they had applied for unemployment, and if they hadn’t OPAL staff helped them past hurdles. (To apply for unemployment assistance, go to the Washington State Unemployment website at

Going forward, OPAL anticipates continued need from people who are not eligible for unemployment, or for whom unemployment is not adequate (for example when the federal assistance payments expire at the end of July).

Through the application process, OPAL staff has heard from islanders from every facet of our community, for example:

A self-employed house cleaner whose clients all canceled, leaving the family with no income.

An Orcas neighbor who worked four part-time jobs – providing childcare, teaching and serving in a restaurant – and was laid off from all four jobs.

A small business owner in Eastsound who had to close their shop, eliminating their only source of income.

The Orcas community’s generosity of spirit, time, talent and dollars will continue to ease the burden of others through the hard stretches ahead. And that will help us to innovate and be stronger together.

Donations to the Emergency Response Fund to help people impacted financially by loss of wages or other COVID-19 related effects can be made through the Community Foundation at

Donations to support OPAL’s ongoing operations can be made directly to OPAL at Incorporated in 1989, OPAL provides housing for 135 rental and ownership households on Orcas Island.