Joseph Shekarchi: ‘This funding will help tenants, landlords and homeowners alike’
PROVIDENCE — Though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has proposed an extension of the moratorium on evictions due to the ongoing pandemic, assistance is available to Rhode Islanders facing housing hardship. On Friday, U.S. Senator Jack Reed joined state leaders in discussing how federal funds could be utilized to help keep renters and homeowners stably housed and improve public health and safety and access to affordable housing opportunities throughout the state.
“Housing is an effective form of PPE, and it is critical to people’s health and well-being,” said Reed. “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,” he continued. “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.”
Since December, Reed has assisted in directing over $450 million in federal housing funding to Rhode Island, including rental assistance, foreclosure prevention and housing counseling funds and utility assistance. $200 million was made available in December when Congress approved the $2.3 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act, $152 million was secured as part of the American Rescue Plan in an effort to help renters avoid eviction and $50 million was delivered to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. Reed also helped secure $23 million in homelessness assistance and supportive service funds, along with an additional $30 million to help low-income Rhode Islanders pay their utility bills and expanded access to housing counseling and assistance services for families facing housing instability, such as eviction, default, foreclosure, loss of income or homelessness.
Last week, Reed was joined by Rhode Island Speaker of the House K. Joseph Shekarchi, Brenda Clement, Director of HousingWorksRI, and Jennifer L. Wood, Executive Director of the Center for Justice to discuss how the new federal housing assistance funds may be utilized.
“This funding will help tenants, landlords and homeowners alike,” said Shekarchi. “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.”
Recently, the CDC proposed an extension of the federal moratorium on evictions to the Office of Management and Budget for regulatory review. The moratorium was set to expire on March 31. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost 10 million Americans are behind on rent payments.
“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 Clement. “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… We have to create more affordable units to make sure that all Rhode Islanders have a safe and affordable home.”
RIHousing will soon launch a program to utilize the available funding by 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 at rihousing.com/rentreliefri.