Joe Mabel via Creative Commons

Last week, the City of Tacoma launched a new virtual event series called T-Town Hall Virtual Community Events. The interactive series, which takes place on Thursday evenings from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and features Mayor Victoria Woodards and members of the Tacoma City Council, focuses on a different topic each week.

Today, May 7, the conversation will be about immigration, led by council members Catherine Ushka and Chris Beale. Future topics include economic development on May 14, and education and children on May 21.

“I am excited to continue this interactive series that addresses issues that are important to our community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mayor Woodards said in a statement. “The Council and I are looking forward to hearing directly from residents, answering questions, and providing information and resources relevant to these unprecedented times.”

Last week’s event centered around tenant rights and Tacoma’s Rental Assistance Program, which the City launched to “ease the worries of our impacted community members and provide some stability while they connect and expand the state and federal resources,” Woodards said.  The program includes $1.2 million in housing trust fund resources that are made available through both a lottery system and through a referral process that directs 45 percent of the funds to communities of color, who are shown to experience higher rates of housing instability, according to the SPARK report, as well as higher rates of COVID-19 infections, according to recent data from the health department.

Deputy Mayor Keith Blocker and Council Member Kristina Walker hosted the meeting, leading a discussion with experts including Allyson Griffith, assistant director of the neighborhood and community services at the City of Tacoma; ChiQuata Elder, landlord-tenant coordinator at the City of Tacoma; and Jim Baumgart, senior policy advisor to Gov. Inslee.

“Affordability, stability, and secure housing was a crisis before COVID-19,” Mayor Woodards said at the beginning of last week’s T-Town Hall. “The economic instability brought by this virus has only heightened that crisis for many in our community.”

Each T-Town Hall has a 1,000-person capacity and can be accessed via the same Zoom link.