PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ While RentReliefRI got off to a slow start, RI Housing tells 12 News that the program has helped more than 50 families since it launched earlier this year.
Christine Hunsinger, chief strategy and innovation officer with RI Housing, stressed the importance of applying for rent relief now, especially since the federal eviction moratorium is slated to expire on June 30.
“These dollars are here to help relieve that suffering, but we need you to get in line,” Hunsinger said.
Last month, RentReliefRI experienced some technical issues which delayed the processing of applications, but the program was quickly brought back online.
“We’ve dispersed just under $750,000 to about 54 families,” Hunsinger said.
The program currently requires landlords to participate, Hunsinger said, which is a cause for concern for tenants whose landlords refuse to cooperate.
One viewer wrote into 12 Responds asking: “Can landlords deny RIRentRelief assistance from tenants?”
Hunsinger urged anyone who’s having trouble to reach out to their call center for assistance.
“We’ll work through it with them,” Hunsinger said. “There are a number of ways that we can address those situations.”
She added that sometimes, all it takes is a conversation with a landlord to persuade them to participate.
Hunsinger said they’re currently working with the state to create a separate account where landlord participation is encouraged, but not required. She said there’s an additional $152 million coming to Rhode Island from the American Rescue Plan for programs like this one.
“It looks like that program may be structured differently, where we don’t need the landlord to participate and we would pay the tenant directly,” Hunsinger explained.
Anyone who’s applied for the program is urged to check their spam and junk folders because sometimes emails from their portal end up going there, according to Hunsinger.
She also said they anticipate launching a new data dashboard at the end of the week which will display a multitude of information about the program.
“It just blends a sense of transparency to the program,” she said. “These are the dollars the state has, this is how they’re being spent.”