Mr. President, along with Senators Brown, Tester, Schatz, Jones, Smith, Warren, Sinema, Warner, Menendez, Van Hollen, Cortez Masto, Kaine, Udall, Booker, Feinstein, Durbin, Merkley, and Wyden, I am introducing legislation that would create a $75 billion Housing Assistance Fund that builds on the success of the Hardest Hit Fund at the Treasury Department that I 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. The Housing Assistance Fund expands this model to provide a flexible source Federal aid to all State-level Housing Finance Agencies.

This Federal funding could then be used to help struggling households remain in their homes while they search for new employment or wait to get back to work. Financial assistance could go towards preventing eviction, mortgage delinquency, default, foreclosures, or loss of utility services, such as water, gas, and electricity. Funds could also be used to keep the Internet connected and remain current with property taxes.

In the midst of responding to the coronavirus, we clearly need to do everything we can to help our constituents. According to CNBC, 8.7 million jobs were lost in the Great Recession, and as of April 23, 2020, more than 26 million Americans filed unemployment insurance claims in just five weeks. Just for comparative purposes, CNBC also reported that 22.4 million jobs were created since the Great Recession. This means we’re facing job losses at an unprecedented scale and pace. What this also means is that we could be facing a potential wave of evictions and foreclosures, so there is no time to waste. We should respond accordingly so that more families can make it to the other side of this public health emergency while staying safe in their homes.

This is precisely the goal of this Housing Assistance Fund legislation we are introducing today. I thank the National Council of State Housing Agencies; Habitat for Humanity; National Housing Conference; National Community Reinvestment Coalition; National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders; National Leased Housing Association; Americans for Financial Reform; National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients; Center for Responsible Lending; Rhode Island Housing; and the Rhode Island Association of Realtors for their support. I urge all of my colleagues to join in pressing for inclusion of the Housing Assistance Fund in our continued response to the coronavirus pandemic.