When Gov. Jay Inslee called Thursday for more funding to fight homelessness, Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki joined to encourage state legislators to answer the call.

Janicki joined Inslee for an afternoon news conference, which the governor used to advocate for more funding to fight homelessness — a problem aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inslee said money from the federal American Rescue Plan can aid the effort.

“Given the extent of this crisis and availability of federal dollars, we can put our shoulders to the wheel,” he said Thursday.

Janicki, first elected in 2014 and currently the chair of the Skagit County Board of Commissioners, signed a letter earlier this week asking for $400 million to be allocated quickly from federal funds to combat homelessness.

She said homelessness is a pressing problem in Skagit County, noting a 27% increase in housing costs in a year and a rental vacancy rate frequently below 1%.

“Like all of Washington state, Skagit County deals with continually rising housing costs and the resulting increase in homelessness,” she said.

Janicki said she knows of seniors who feel they must choose between rent and medications, and students who lack stable housing.

She said the county has taken steps to fight homelessness, such as teaming with the cities of Burlington and Mount Vernon to fund the Skagit First Step Center.

Janicki said that shelter project and others show what can be achieved when governments and partners coordinate and are granted flexibility to take approaches suited to their communities.

Funding from the American Rescue Plan can help fight the problem in a deeper way, she said.

“We have this opportunity to make significant one-time investment in housing to fight homelessness across our state,” Janicki said.

Inslee, who was also joined by Kirkland Mayor Penny Sweet, said he hopes further funds can be allocated during the current state legislative session.

Reporter Trevor Pyle: 360-416-2156, tpyle@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @goskagit, Facebook.com/bytrevorpyle

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