PROVIDENCE, RI – In an effort to help keep people and communities safe amid the surging pandemic, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) successfully delivered $200 million in emergency federal rental assistance for Rhode Island and helped extend the nationwide eviction moratorium by one month, through the end of January.  This infusion of federal funding may be used by the state to help families and individuals pay their rent and utility bills and remain stably housed, while also helping rental property owners cover their operating costs.

Reed, the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) and a senior member of the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, worked with Congressional leaders to include $25 billion in the final compromise agreement.  The final agreed upon policy is similar to a $75 billion initiative Reed introduced earlier this year, S. 3620, the Housing Assistance Fund.

Reed’s legislation sought to build on the success of the Hardest Hit Fund at the U.S. Treasury Department, which Reed successfully championed in 2010.  The Hardest Hit Fund provided funds to 18 state-level Housing Finance Agencies, directing targeted foreclosure prevention assistance to households and neighborhoods in states like Rhode Island hit hard by the economic and housing market downturn.  That program provided Rhode Island $116 million in federal funds since 2010 for the Hardest Hit Fund Rhode Island.

“Safe, stable housing is an effective form of PPE.  We simply can’t allow mass-evictions to become a side effect of COVID-19.  I worked hard to include rent relief in this bill because without this assistance, millions of Americans could soon be forced out on the streets in the dead of winter, which would only worsen this public health crisis.  The $200 million includes a small state minimum in rental assistance that will provide Rhode Island with a critical infusion of needed funds and grant the state some added flexibility in how they target their Coronavirus Relief Fund money to other areas of significant need,” said Reed, who successfully led efforts to establish the $150-billion Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) in the CARES Act, providing $1.25 billion for Rhode Island’s budget and response to COVID-19.

This rental assistance will be distributed by the U.S. Treasury Department using the same formula as CRF.

To help prevent families from being evicted during the pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium went into effect in September and was set to expire on December 31.  By granting a one-month extension, states will have additional time to distribute this new infusion of rental assistance and help prevent avoidable evictions.

According to Moody’s Analytics, nearly 12 million renters will owe an average of $5,850 in back rent and utilities by January, and according to a Census Bureau Survey, 9 million renters said they were behind on rent last month.

“Infection rates are spiking and we’re in the midst of a public health emergency.  The last thing we need is a tidal wave of evictions sending families out into the streets with nowhere to go.  Time is of the essence here, and we’ve got to get this bill signed and get this eviction prevention assistance into the community providing relief for renters and those who need it most,” said Reed, a senior member of the Banking Committee, which oversees federal housing policy.  “This is a challenging time, and those who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness are particularly vulnerable.  We have to find ways to keep people safe, protect public health, and prevent a tidal wave of evictions.  Too many people are out of work, and this targeted federal assistance will help keep a roof over their heads and prevent more families from ending up in the homelessness system.  We also need to continue working toward long-term solutions to prevent and end homelessness and increase the supply of quality affordable housing.”

This federal rental assistance funding may be used by the state to provide eligible renters with rent and utility payments, unpaid rent or utility bills that have accumulated since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and other housing expenses that were incurred due, directly or indirectly, to the pandemic.  Eligible renters would also have access to services, such as case management and tenant-landlord mediation, in order to help them remain stably housed.  Eligible households are defined as renter households who: (1) have a household income not more than 80 percent of the area median income; (2) have one or more household members who can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and (3) have one or more household members who qualify for unemployment benefits or experienced financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the pandemic.

Rhode Island renters in need of assistance may apply to the entity selected by the state to administer the program.  Once a renter qualifies for assistance, the administering entity would send the payment directly to the landlord.

Each state will determine its rental assistance application process, and the federal funds will be made available to states by the U.S. Treasury shortly after the bill becomes law.

The legislation must be approved by both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate before being sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.