PROVIDENCE, RI – Today, Governor Dan McKee, Lt. Governor Sabina Matos, Senator Jack Reed, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman Jim Langevin, Congressman David N. Cicilline, Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, and Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing announced the launch of the Homeowner Assistance Fund Rhode Island (HAF-RI). This program will provide much-needed financial assistance to eligible Rhode Island homeowners who have struggled to pay their mortgage payments and/or housing-related expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I am incredibly proud to launch this program and provide Rhode Islanders who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 with the support they need," said Governor McKee. "Another example of our state providing critical support directly to our residents, these resources help families in our state to stay in their homes and potentially prevents others from experiencing homelessness. We are grateful to our federal delegation for their advocacy and Senator Reed for his leadership to ensure that all Rhode Island residents have access to a safe space to call home."
"I am incredibly grateful to our federal delegation for prioritizing Rhode Island homeowners as we find ourselves in the throes of a pandemic and unpredictable economic challenges," said Lt. Governor Matos. "Every housing expert and advocate I talk to agrees that the best way to tackle homelessness is to prevent it from ever happening in the first place. I am confident that these funds will go a long way towards alleviating financial hardships and providing peace of mind to many Rhode Island families."
The program is aimed at preventing mortgage delinquencies and defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities or home energy services, and displacement of homeowners experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic. The program helps homeowners impacted by COVID-19 to catch up on mortgage and utility bills and other housing-related costs and is available statewide.
Senator Reed spearheaded the creation of the $10 billion federal Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) that was approved as part of the coronavirus stimulus package last spring. Rhode Island has received $50 million in HAF funds for struggling Rhode Island homeowners.
"I created this program to help prevent people from losing their homes. The application window is now open and I encourage Rhode Island homeowners experiencing financial hardship to apply as soon as possible. This is another example of the federal government giving states the resources to cope with impacts of the pandemic – in this case, averting further problems in our already stressed housing market. Getting this money out the door quickly is imperative if we want help families, neighborhoods, and communities," said Senator Reed, who led the successful effort to include $9.961 billion for a new Homeowner Assistance Fund in the American Rescue Plan Act.
"After years of skyrocketing home prices and with a new variant causing fresh uncertainty, the Homeowner Assistance Fund created by our American Rescue Plan is here to help Rhode Islanders keep their homes," said Senator Whitehouse. "Federal support is available to cover families' mortgage and utility bills, and these funds do not need to be paid back. Homeowners having a difficult time making ends meet should contact RIHousing right away to find out if they qualify."
Following approval by the U.S. Department of the Treasury of Rhode Island's program, RIHousing is now able to make these critical resources available to Rhode Island homeowners. Eligible applicants can receive up to 24 months of assistance, not to exceed $50,000. Applicable expenses include mortgage arrearages, monthly mortgage payments, principal reduction, property taxes, homeowner association fees, and condominium association fees. Those who qualify for mortgage assistance or assistance for other foreclosable liens may also receive payment assistance for utilities, flood or mortgage insurance, or other mortgage-related expenses. Generally, program assistance will be paid directly to the mortgage servicer, utility provider or other entity owed housing-related costs.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on homeowners, so my delegation colleagues and I fought hard to secure funding for the Homeowner Assistance Fund, ensuring Rhode Islanders are able to afford their mortgage payments and stay in their homes," said Congressman Jim Langevin. "I want to thank RIHousing for their unparalleled efforts to expand access to affordable housing, reduce homelessness and foreclosures, and look out for the health and wellbeing of all Rhode Islanders."
"In the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, Rhode Islanders have faced incredible financial hardship through no fault of their own. The Homeowner Assistance Fund will ensure that Rhode Islanders who have worked so hard to own their own homes can continue to do so," said Congressman Cicilline. "I encourage any Rhode Islander who needs assistance to apply today."
Eligible homeowner applicants must meet all of the following criteria to be eligible for assistance through HAF-RI:
- Household must be below certain income limits, which varies by household size. - Must own and occupy a 1 to 4-unit dwelling in Rhode Island. - Must have experienced a COVID-19 related financial hardship after January 21, 2020. - Original mortgage balance must have been less than $548,250.
"The Homeowner Assistance Fund will support eligible homeowners throughout the state during a critical time in Rhode Island's recovery. We hear how important access to critical support, like homeowner assistance, can be for families and I am proud that we were able to bring these funds directly to our residents," added Speaker Shekarchi. "We are so grateful to RIHousing for their work to implement this program across the state and hope that anyone eligible to benefit from this program will apply today."
"We know that our constituents, particularly our homeowners, have experienced so much over the course of the past two years," said Senate President Ruggerio. "COVID-19 has presented new challenges and I'm glad that we were able to respond and provide our residents with critical dollars to help with housing costs and payments. I'm grateful to our federal delegation for leading the efforts to ensure these resources made it home to Rhode Island."
Community-based partner agencies will be available soon to provide application assistance. In the meantime, individuals looking for more information, the application or answers to frequently asked questions about the program should visit: www.HAF-RI.com.
"For many, owning a home represents the American Dream and is likely the greatest source of economic and social stability for owner households," said Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing, the agency tasked with administration of the program. "The HAF-RI program provides vital resources for struggling Rhode Island homeowners and is a critical tool to help ease the pain of the pandemic felt by families and individuals across our state."