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Washington emergency assistance.

Low income and working poor families in Washington State may be able to qualify for emergency assistance. There are some resources in the state that can assist with paying bills such as utility, water, and heating. Programs may also help people pay for other expenses such as rent and housing. Income criteria are in place and need to be met by applicants. Learn how to get emergency help in Washington State.

The additional cash benefit from the emergency assistance programs and social services, which is formally known as Additional Requirements for Emergent Needs (AREN), is only offered to persons who are qualified for State Family Assistance (SFA), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), or the state of Washington Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) programs.

If you are faced with an unexpected crisis and you need additional one-time financial assistance to pay for expenses such as utilities, rent, or to maintain your housing, then provided you meet other criteria you may be able to qualify for aid. A payment from AREN can be used to supplement other public assistance that you may get as well.

Types of bills that Washington emergency assistance covers

The program is focused on paying for emergency utility or housing needs that residents may be facing. Funds can be used to:

  • Prevent a shut off of utilities, or to pay to reconnect services. Those energy bills will be paid for only in the case of a health or safety issues. The utilities covered include water, electricity or fuel bills, or even phone service.
  • If your home is currently unsafe or needs repair, then grant money can be used to pay for home repairs or to address defects to your home when it causes a risk to your safety.
  • Housing can be addressed. Cash assistance is available in Washington to pay rent or mortgage to prevent an eviction or foreclosure. Emergency rental assistance can be provided by this Washington program, and locate help with rent in WA.
  • In addition, for people who are currently homeless, or if you are faced with domestic violence, the emergent needs program can help people find and pay for a new home or apartment. Funds from AREN can even be used to pay the security deposit.




Some of the criteria that need to be met in order to receive assistance from Additional Requirements for Emergent Needs include:

  • The applicant needs to have an emergency need for paying utilities, rent, or housing.
  • There must be a valid reason that you can’t pay your bills.
  • The applicant needs to be eligible for other Washington or federal government public assistance such as RCA, TANF, or SFA.
  • The individual must also have an eligible child or be pregnant.
  • The person applying can’t have money available due to an emergency situation that reduced the applicants income (such as an injury or long-term illness)

One of the twists of the emergency financial assistance provided in Washington is that the applicant needs to have had to use their own money to pay for other emergency or necessary expenses, such as medical bills, dental care, child care, or housing expenses. So basically this means that applicants need to have some reason that they don’t have funds, and they can’t have previously carelessly spent their income.

Since the program is intended to provide short term financial assistance, the applicant must be able to get back on track with paying expenses in the future. The individual needs to demonstrate how they plan on paying their bills and rent on their own. The applicant needs to be on the path to stability, including budgeting, money saving methods and increasing income. Learn more about how to save money fast on low income.

So if the program provides someone with short term rent help, the person needs to show how they will get back on track as any financial aid is not intended to be long term or a charity type service. This is an important part of the additional requirements for emergent needs (AREN) program.

Contact information

To apply to this or learn about other social services or emergency programs, call Washington State Department of Social and Health Services at 877-501-2233.





Another resource that may be able to help is WorkFirst support services. The state assistance program may be used to help people relocate to new, safe, and affordable housing units, or to help people both find or keep a job. For example, some of the non housing expenses that are not covered under the AREN program that is referenced above may be paid under WorkFirst support services. Expenses like car repairs, baby supplies (diapers), or clothing may be paid for in their entirety.


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By Jon McNamara


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