Reed Works to Protect Renters & Homeowners During COVID-19 Pandemic
Sen. Reed says rental or mortgage payment assistance is available to prevent RIers impacted by COVID-19 from losing their homes amid the pandemic as he works to deliver additional federal assistance to prevent pandemic from creating a tidal wave of evictions and foreclosures
PROVIDENCE, RI – As unemployment rates soar and some eviction moratoriums begin to expire, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) is calling for action to help struggling renters and homeowners and prevent a wave of evictions and foreclosures from exacerbating the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
Tomorrow, Monday, June 1, the Rhode Island District Court will begin processing eviction cases that were initiated before March 17. However, judges will be dealing with a backlog of cases, and will not hear post-March 17 eviction cases until July 1.
“Eviction moratoriums and forbearance provide temporary relief. Congressional Republicans can choose to sit back and wait for this health crisis to lead to a housing disaster, or we can learn key lessons from the 2008 housing crisis and take bipartisan preventative action. Smart, targeted housing investments can help save people, neighborhoods, and communities. The price of inaction is far greater and would prove more costly in the long run,” said Senator Reed. “The COVID-19 public health pandemic and economic crisis are likely to persist past the summer, and Congress must take action to help renters and homeowners nationwide from becoming homeless, which would make any economic recovery more difficult.”
Reed helped include several key housing provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Public Law No. 116-136) to help keep Rhode Islanders in their homes, including an eviction moratorium on properties with federally backed mortgage loans until July 25. Senator Reed, who was part of the bipartisan working group that negotiated key provisions of the CARES Act, led efforts to include $5 billion for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and $4 billion for Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) to help communities rapidly respond to COVID-19 and the economic and housing impacts it is causing.
Reed also successfully led efforts to establish the $150-billion Coronavirus Relief Fund in the CARES Act, providing $1.25 billion for Rhode Island’s budget and response to COVID-19. These federal funds are being put to work saving lives and bolstering the state’s capacity to help people and Main Street businesses. Rhode Island has created a rental assistance fund, which launched with $1.5 million, and a recent addition of $5 million, which provides up to $5,000 to renters who are behind on payments due to COVID-19.
Reed has also introduced new legislation to help prevent avoidable evictions and foreclosures through a new $75 billion Housing Assistance Fund (S. 3620) to assist households struggling to stay current on their rent or mortgage payments, their utilities and internet payments, and their property taxes during and after the pandemic. Senator Reed’s bill would provide assistance to communities nationwide and includes a small state minimum, ensuring each state would receive no less than $250 million.
“Too many Americans have already lost their jobs, and we can’t afford to let a wave of avoidable foreclosures and evictions wipeout families, neighborhoods, and communities. The Housing Assistance Fund could provide some much needed stability using a proven model to effectively distribute funds in a manner that helps people stay in their homes and gives states the opportunity to tailor solutions to local needs. We learned important lessons from the last housing crisis. We need a proactive, coordinated strategy and cost-effective interventions at the state and federal level to effectively respond to this pandemic-housing threat,” said Reed. “If we invest wisely now, we can head off the need for a much longer, deeper, and more expensive housing crisis and hasten recovery.”
As of May 26, nearly 4.76 million homeowners nationwide are in mortgage forbearance plans, according to Black Knight, a financial data provider that tracks mortgages.
Reed says Rhode Islanders in need of housing assistance should contact RIHousing at: https://www.rihousing.com/homeowner-assistance/ for counseling and assistance and Housing Help RI, a statewide homelessness prevention initiative to apply for rental assistance.
Reed says housing experts may recommend renters or homeowners talk to their landlord or lender to negotiate or workout a payment plan, but that it is important for people to understand their rights and what the law says about evictions or foreclosures in their jurisdiction.