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Providence, RI — The recent United States Supreme Court decision to allow eviction proceedings to resume has left many Rhode Island renters at risk. Fortunately, renters have a lifeline available to them via RentReliefRI, a federally-funded program that provides up to 18 months of rental and utility assistance for tenants struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For renters facing eviction, a network of agencies and partners are working together to provide on-the-ground support and assistance to prevent eviction and help Rhode Islanders maintain their housing stability.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed significant health and financial burdens on Rhode Islanders and their families,” said Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee. “Additionally, the recent Supreme Court decision overturning the Biden Administration’s eviction mortarium leaves many Rhode Islanders on the brink of eviction and facing homelessness. With over $200M in Federal assistance for Rhode Island families, no tenant should be evicted for non-payment of rent and no landlord should be struggling due to an inability to collect rent as a result of these resources. RentReliefRI program funds are a meaningful and tangible way we can work together to keep families in their homes and we are committed to continuing our efforts to help Rhode Islanders, especially those most at risk of homelessness.”
A network of organizations and partners are working with RIHousing, the state agency tasked with administering the RentReliefRI program, to help tenants at risk of eviction due to non-payment of rent. Working with program partners, RIHousing has established a presence in the state District Court where eviction actions are heard to help renters with program assistance while in the Court House. Program partners operating in the state’s District Court work one-on-one with landlords and tenants in the eviction process to help them apply for assistance, complete required documentation or check the status of an application for rental assistance.
“It is critical that we do all we can to support Rhode Island families at risk of homelessness,” said RI House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi. “18 months into this pandemic and Rhode Islanders are hurting. Fortunately, these federal funds provide a lifeline to renter households, helping them stay in their homes, keep their families in a stable environment and move forward to a better and brighter future.”
The partnership with the courts also allows RentReliefRI program staff to send mailings directly to those households facing eviction for non-payment, promoting the availability of RentReliefRI program funds and highlighting available assistance provided by Rhode Island Legal Services and the Center for Justice, two important partners of the RentReliefRI program. Information on households facing eviction also means that RentReliefRI program staff can identify and prioritize any applicants in the system that may be facing eviction.
“It’s important that we continue with our efforts to help those families impacted by the pandemic remain in their homes and get back on their feet,” said RI Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio. “The RentReliefRI program has helped thousands of Rhode Island renter households and is poised to help many more. Reaching tenants on the verge of eviction is an important and integral step to helping renters remain in their homes and avoid homelessness.”
RIHousings’s partners, Rhode Island Legal Services and the Center for Justice assist tenants who are in the eviction process into the RentReliefRI program, provide legal representation for tenants applying for assistance and work with both the tenant and the landlord to try to work through the program to address arrearages and avoid eviction. Another program partner, Housing Network of RI, has dedicated its staff to assist tenants currently in the eviction process with application assistance and filing.
On a daily basis, RentReliefRI staff shares with the Court information on the status of all applicants for rental assistance who have a hearing for non-payment scheduled the following day as well as anyone in the eviction process who has had their rental assistance application approved so that their cases can be removed from the court calendar. Additionally, program partners and staff coordinate weekly mailings to households who received eviction notices alerting them to both the legal aid available and the RentReliefRI program.
“The relationships we’ve built with partners and the District Court has already proven effective in stopping eviction proceedings, helping renters remain in their homes and landlords getting the payments they need to meet their financial obligations,” said Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing. “We are particularly grateful for the assistance that District Court Chief Justice Jeanne LaFazia and her fellow District Court Justices and magistrates have provided to us and our partners. We are focused on getting the money out the door to eligible applicants and helping families remain in their homes.”
As a condition of receiving rental assistance, landlords must agree to drop pending eviction cases and may not evict the assisted tenant for non-payment for as long as they are eligible for assistance under the program.