Governor Dan McKee and RIHousing today announced that the RentReliefRI program has reached a major milestone, having passed the $100 million mark in rent and utility assistance funds distributed to 13,761 renter households. The federally funded RentReliefRI program provides up to 18 months of financial assistance to eligible Rhode Island tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Achieving this milestone was no small feat,” Governor McKee said. “When I took office, our administration made it a priority to expedite the distribution of rent and utility relief funds to Rhode Islanders who needed it most. Together, we are committed to continuing our efforts to get these much-needed funds into the hands of more Rhode Island tenants with the help of a strong team of community partners who have come together in a big way to make this happen. happen.
Launched in March last year, the program provides financial assistance to cover rent arrears, future-oriented rents, utility arrears and certain other housing expenses. Funded by the US Treasury, significant changes were made to the RentReliefRI program in the last quarter of 2021, resulting in a dramatic increase in the number and amount of application approvals. Under Governor McKee’s leadership, RIHousing has worked with the administration to expedite the application and review process and get RentReliefRI funds to Rhode Islanders in need. This included the governor’s directive for RI Housing to make a bulk payment to National Grid to automatically cover $16 million in overdue utility bills in Rhode Island.
“I have worked hard to make these federal rent relief funds available to help Rhode Islanders facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I commend RIHousing for accelerating efforts to get these funds out to avoid evictions and keep people in stable housing,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed, who helped include $200 million for Rhode Islanders under the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program in Consolidated Appropriations. Act, 2021 as well as $152 million in additional ERA funding for Rhode Islanders under the American Rescue Plan Act.
The program has been backed by a network of partner agencies and support from elected officials and municipalities across the state to ensure that Rhode Island tenants and their landlords have the tools and information they need to apply and receive help.
Eligible renter households must be at or below 80% of the regional median income (AMI), which translates to an annual income of approximately $69,200 for a family of four in most parts of the state. Applicants can apply for help paying utilities even if they don’t need help paying rent and there is no monthly cap on eligible rent relief.
“There is no silver bullet to the challenges we face,” House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi said. “I am thrilled to see the state reach this milestone in the distribution of RentReliefRI program funds, but it remains essential that we continue our efforts to ensure that Rhode Islanders still reeling from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. have the support and resources they need.
“As we begin a new year and look to the future, it is important to mark this occasion and thank the teams of individuals and organizations who have been so instrumental in its success,” said the President. of the Senate, Dominick Ruggerio. “But more importantly, we celebrate the thousands of hard-working Rhodeans who have been helped by this program. These Rhode Island households can now envision a brighter future for 2022 and beyond. »
Of the $100 million in aid approved, $75 million was approved to cover rent, $22 million for utility arrears and nearly $3 million for security deposits and other costs related to the lodging. The average assistance approved per household is $6,720. Recent changes to the program requirements and review process have helped streamline the approval process and secure more funding. Weekly funding approvals averaged $500,000 in June 2021, rising to $2 million per week in August and now average $1 million per day in approvals.
“RIHousing is grateful for the support and leadership we have received in reaching this important milestone and ensuring that these federal dollars are used to maintain housing stability for Rhode Island renters, while also helping rental property owners. meet their financial obligations,” said Carol Ventura. , executive director of RIHousing, the agency responsible for administering the program. “We are committed to helping even more hard-hit tenant households overcome the financial impacts of the pandemic and stay in their homes.”
Available statewide, to date the top 10 municipalities based on funding approvals are: Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, Cranston, Central Falls, North Providence, West Warwick, Warwick, East Providence and Johnston. Program data shows that of approved applications, 70% of applicants represent minority populations and 69% are households earning less than 30% of the regional median income (AMI), which translates to an annual income of approximately $26 $500 for a family of four in most parts of the state.
Full details and information on the status of program applications and funding approvals are available online at rihousing.com/rent-relief-ri-dashboard.
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