RI Offering $352 Million in Rental Assistance & Additional Housing Help to Residents Impacted by COVID-19
PROVIDENCE, RI – With the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eviction moratorium set to expire March 31, U.S. Senator Jack Reed says it is critical for federal assistance to be made available to local families in need to prevent avoidable evictions and foreclosures.
Since December, Senator Reed has helped direct over $450 million in federal housing funding to Rhode Island, including rental assistance, foreclosure prevention and housing counseling funds, and utility assistance.
Today, Senator Reed joined House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, Brenda Clement, Director of HousingWorksRI, and Jennifer L. Wood, Executive Director of the Center for Justice to discuss how new federal housing assistance funds may be utilized to help keep renters and homeowners stably housed and improve public health and safety and access to affordable housing opportunities especially during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“Housing is an effective form of PPE, and it is critical to people’s health and well-being. Going back to the CARES Act, we’ve taken several steps to mitigate evictions and foreclosures and help keep people in their homes. Now, with a moratorium on evictions set to expire soon, the federal government must step up and prevent a tidal wave of evictions and foreclosures from overwhelming communities. This federal funding should help lift the burden of unaffordable rent and utility payments that accrued during the height of the pandemic when people were forced to stay home and couldn’t work. I am pleased to deliver these federal resources to keep families in their homes. I will continue working to create more affordable, sustainable housing opportunities for all Rhode Islanders,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of both the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, and the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees federal housing investments.
Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi stated: “There is no one who has been a stronger advocate for housing in Rhode Island than Senator Reed. This funding will help tenants, landlords and homeowners alike. For years, housing advocates have been sounding the alarm that Rhode Island is facing a housing crisis. The pandemic has exacerbated that crisis, with COVID hot spots in our state correlating directly to areas where people live in close proximity to each other. We must act now. This funding is a critical resource that will help Rhode Islanders with some of our most immediate, pandemic-related housing crises.”
“In these unprecedented times, when it has never been more clear that having a safe, healthy, and affordable place to call home is imperative to the safety and well-being of Rhode Island residents, this increased investment in housing is critical,” said Brenda Clement, Director of HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University. We are grateful to Senator Reed and the rest of our congressional delegation for bringing these resources to our state. The shortage of housing in RI was a problem even before COVID-19. According to NLIHC’s recent GAP report, there are 45,103 extremely low-income households in Rhode Island, but only 23,425 affordable rental homes available to them. The result is only 52 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 households with extremely low incomes. We have to create more affordable units to make sure that all Rhode Islanders have a safe and affordable home.”
Since December, Senator Reed has delivered to Rhode Island hundreds of millions of dollars in federal housing resources, including rental relief, mortgage assistance, and utility assistance. Federal funds include:
$200 Million in December for RentReliefRI
On Dec. 21, 2020, Congress passed the $2.3 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (also known as the “Coronabus” law because it combined a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package with a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill for FY21). Senator Reed helped included a provision in that law directing $200 million to Rhode Island for rental assistance.
RIHousing will soon launch a program to put this money to work helping tenants and landlords who have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is designed to help eligible state residents who are having trouble covering their rent or housing-based utilities. Interested tenants and landlords may sign up now to receive email alerts for when the application process opens: https://www.rihousing.com/rentreliefri
Another $152 million for RI in Emergency Rental Assistance Funds from the American Rescue Plan
To help renters avoid eviction, Senator Reed delivered another $152 million for this program in the American Rescue Plan. As a result, Rhode Island will have a total of $352 million in Emergency Rental Assistance Funds, offered through the U.S. Treasury Department.
$50 million for Rhode Island Homeowners through Reed’s Homeowner Assistance Fund
To help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure, Senator Reed’s Homeowner Assistance Fund was included in the American Rescue Plan, providing close to $10 billion nationwide. These federal funds may be used to help families avoid foreclosure, pay utilities (electricity, gas, and water), and keep the Internet connected. Rhode Island will receive the small state minimum of $50 million from this pot of funding.
$23 million in Homelessness Assistance and Supportive Services Funds
To develop affordable housing for families at risk of homelessness, those fleeing domestic violence, and veterans, Senator Reed helped include $5 billion in the American Rescue Plan. Rhode Island is estimated to receive $23 million in homelessness assistance and supportive services funds through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and current estimates are that the state, along with communities including Pawtucket, Providence, and Woonsocket will receive allocations of funding.
$30 million in LIHEAP to Help RIers Save on Utility Bills
To help low-income Rhode Islanders pay their utilities, the American Rescue Plan directs an estimated $30 million to the Ocean State through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
Senator Reed also successfully helped include language to expand access to housing counseling and assistance services for families facing housing instability, such as eviction, default, foreclosure, loss of income, or homelessness.