PROVIDENCE—The state of Rhode Island received $1 million in Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) grants meant to render financial aid to residents of public housing. East Greenwich and Narragansett are set to receive a combined $141,512 of the monies, which will be used to continue extant FSS programs in the towns through 2020. U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline announced that nearly a dozen housing authorities across Rhode Island are receiving a portion of the $1,056,787 in federal funding to continue operating their FSS programs in 2020.
“The Family Self-Sufficiency Program is an effective initiative that uplifts individuals and communities. It delivers results by helping people set goals and provides the mentorship, tools, and support to achieve them,” Reed said. “This is a smart investment in helping participants gain skills and increase their earning power so that participants can achieve financial independence.”
Reed is the Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD), which oversees federal spending for HUD programs, and has a long track record of helping the state to secure much needed federal monies. In 2018, Reed authored the streamlining effort that led Congress to enact the bipartisan Family Self-Sufficiency Act, which combined the Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher FSS programs to enhance opportunities for residents and better connect them with the services they need.
The FSS program works by helping local Housing Authorities implement strategies to help assisted housing residents find work, access job-training resources, and achieve financial independence. And the program enables local Housing Authorities to employ FSS Coordinators, who help clients get firmly on their feet and develop a plan and connect them with services in order to help them achieve their goals. Such services include child care, transportation, education, job-training, employment and counseling.
“Far too many hardworking families are faced with a difficult choice: keep a roof over their heads or put food on the table. This needs to end,” Cicilline said. “While we work across all levels of government to ensure that wage growth continues to keep pace with rising housing costs, we must also make sure that folks have the resources they need to pay their rent and feed their kids. These critical federal funds will deliver much needed assistance to housing authorities throughout our state that are working to do just that. I’m proud of our work in the Federal Delegation to secure these funds, and I look forward to continuing our efforts at the federal level to bring home valuable resources like these to Rhode Island.”
In all, the Housing Authority of the Town of East Greenwich will be receiving $65,473, and the Narragansett Housing Authority will be receiving $76,039 in FSS funds. Apart from East Greenwich and Narragansett, the funds will be divided between Central Falls, Coventry, Cumberland, East Providence, North Providence, Pawtucket, Providence, Warwick and select statewide programs which normally receive FSS funds.
Clients in the FSS program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), benefit by having escrow accounts administered and funded by the Housing Authority. As they progress through the program and earn gainful, sustainable employment, FSS clients pay larger shares of their monthly rent. Meanwhile, the Housing Authorities deposit a portion of these increased rent payments into clients’ interest-bearing escrow accounts (designed to allow a third party to oversee the funds) to boost their savings. At the end of the program, clients who succeed may use their nest egg towards necessities that allow them to continue making progress toward achieving economic independence.
“Providence Housing Authority is now serving nearly 200 of our residents through the FSS program to promote opportunity for our families as they set and achieve career, educational and financial goals,” said Melissa Sanzaro, the executive director of the providence housing authority. “We are grateful for the support of Senator Reed and our entire federal delegation for this funding and we look forward to the work together with the other Housing Authority grantees to build viable communities across Rhode Island.”