The CARES Act takes some first steps toward helping the homeless and those struggling with their mortgages, rent, or utility bills. I will keep advocating for more assistance for the most vulnerable Rhode Islanders as the Senate considers further legislative responses to the coronavirus pandemic.
The CARES Act grants forbearance and foreclosure relief to certain borrowers with federally-backed mortgages. It also provides eviction relief to some renters living in certain properties that are federally-subsidized or have a federally-backed mortgage. The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs has posted a full breakdown of these relief provisions. You can find that document HERE.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has also posted a COVID-19 resources webpage for homeowners and renters. You can find that page HERE.
Governor Raimondo has announced that all eviction hearings in Rhode Island are postponed through the end of May. Currently, eviction actions may be filed beginning on June 1, but the Rhode Island District Court will determine the appropriate protocol for resuming eviction. The Governor has also recommended that public housing residents with eviction-related questions contact Rhode Island Legal Services at (401) 274-2652, and tenants in private rental housing contact the Rhode Island Center for Justice at (401) 491-1101 with questions.
The CARES Act provides $4 billion in additional funding for the Homeless Assistance Emergency Solutions Grant program (ESG). HUD has already announced that Rhode Island will receive nearly $5 million from the first allocation of ESG funding, which can be used for eviction prevention assistance, shelter care, housing assistance, and temporary hotels for people experiencing homelessness.
The CARES Act also provides $5 billion for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. CDBG provides block grants to states and local governments to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment, and by expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons. HUD is releasing this funding in multiple allocations, and has announced that the first set of CDBG funding will award almost $10 million to Rhode Island. The announced funding represents $2 billion of the overall $5 billion provided for CDBG.
The CARES Act delivers $65 million for the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program. HUD has announced that Rhode Island will receive almost $400,000 in HOPWA funding. HOPWA provides grants to states, localities, and nonprofits for housing assistance for low-income persons with HIV/AIDS.
The Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission has halted all collection activities and service terminations for unpaid utilities bills through at least May 31. This includes all electric, natural gas, water, and sewer utilities that are regulated by the state.
Rhode Island has been awarded over $5.87 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) as a result of the $900 million I worked to secure on a bipartisan basis in the CARES Act. LIHEAP provides formula funding to states and localities to help low-income families and seniors, including the unemployed, pay their utility bills. You can read more about the actions I am taking to include more funding for LIHEAP in future COVID-19 relief packages HERE.
Further information on LIHEAP in Rhode Island, including eligibility and the application process, can be found HERE.