Rhode Island renters helped by $50 million RentRefliefRI assistance

Kaicie Boeglin

Editor-in-Chief

Image via RIHousing Facebook page

Providence, RI – RIHousing announced on Oct. 5 that the RentReliefRI program approved over $50 million in rental and utility assistance funds to just under 4,600 renting Rhode Islanders. RentReliefRI is a federally-funded program that serves as a lifeline for Rhode Island renters and can provide up to 18 months of rental and/or utility assistance for tenants impacted by the current pandemic. The RIHousing communication department released statements on Oct. 5 explaining this program's recent approval. “This funding also includes over $16 million in new commitments to low- and moderate-income customer electricity and gas utility bills.”

RentReliefRI is supported, in whole or in part, by federal award number ERA0013 awarded to the State of Rhode Island by the U.S. Department of Treasury. The RIHousing communications dept. cited U.S. Senator Jack Reed and elaborated on how he incorporated $200 million through the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (P.L. 116-260) as well as $152 million in additional ERA funding for Rhode Islanders in the American Rescue Plan Act (P.L. 117-2). Senator Reed said, “I 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 the door to prevent evictions and keep people stably housed.”


Governor Dan McKee was also quoted saying, "I am pleased that we are celebrating this important milestone and that thousands of Rhode Island households can go to bed tonight with one less worry. It is critical we keep our foot on the gas and continue recent efforts to distribute these funds to those most in need. Rhode Island renter households are relying on this lifeline to keep them housed this winter and landlords rely on these funds to help them meet their financial responsibilities. Utilizing these federal resources as effectively and strategically as possible will help Rhode Island and Rhode Islanders come out of this pandemic stronger.”


RentReliefRI is funded by the U.S. Treasury and has undergone a multitude of changes in recent weeks to create a more concise application and review process. On August 26, additional flexibility for these federal funds was granted, hence why the RentReliefRI staff created a new streamlined process. The various changes to the application and review process first expanded partner outreach and application assistance which have resulted in increases in the sum of approvals. National Grid customers will still be required to provide an attestation of eligibility to RIHousing to have the assistance funds credited to their account.


According to the RentReliefRI dashboard, the top ten municipalities based on funding approvals to date are: Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, Cranston, North Providence, Central Falls, West Warwick, Warwick, East Providence and Johnston. The assistance is available statewide. The RIHousing RIRentrelief program data shows that within the approved applications, “63% of applicants represent minority populations.”


Rhode Island Speaker of the House Joseph Shekarchi added, “Rhode Island renters have felt the brunt of job losses, financial hardship and housing instability due to the pandemic. RentReliefRI funds offer an opportunity for us to help families get back on track and stay in their homes. These recent changes will allow us to help even more families remain in their homes.”


This program was launched in March and has had weekly funding approvals averaging $500,000 in June, $2 million in August and currently averaging $1 million per day in approvals. The changes to the program’s application requirements and review process have helped to streamline the approval process and get more funds out to renters. The RentReliefRI call center can be reached at 1-855-608-8756 Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Applications can also be found on their website.

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