PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The RentReliefRI program was put in place to prevent tenants from being evicted, but a landlord who spoke with 12 News claims the whole process has proved difficult.
Stephanie Barbusci has been a landlord for six years and said one of her tenants applied for rent relief assistance through the program in April.
But she and her tenant ran into problems when applying.
“My tenant last week had to decide between grocery shopping and her National Grid bill,” Barbusci explained. “Very frustrated, and sad, and disappointed.”
Christine Hunsinger, chief strategy and innovation officer with RI Housing, said if a tenant applies for utility assistance, RentReliefRI will notify the company beforehand.
“They’re not going to shut it off until a determination has been made about whether they’re eligible for assistance,” Hunsinger said.
Barbusci said she and her tenant struggled to upload the necessary documents into the system.
“The same documents needed to be uploaded at least five times,” she said. “The same document, and it never gets uploaded. We get contacted almost weekly by somebody different.”
Barbusci’s application has since been approved and she’s now waiting to receive funds, but it’s unclear why the program wasn’t able to see those documents on the processer’s end.
Hunsinger said sometimes a fluke incident happens.
“In a system that’s got 7,000 different accounts that, there’s one or two or a handful that have kind of fallen into something that we didn’t anticipate,” Hunsinger said. “I understand it’s frustrating, but the program takes time.”
Hunsinger said if something doesn’t seem right, you can send an email to email@example.com.
“If you’re being asked for documents more than once, or something is just not right, you can email us and tell us what you’re experiencing,” she explained.
Hunsinger said after an application is completed, a case worker is assigned to the claim to help tenants and landlords through the process.
If the applicant is non-responsive, Hunsinger said the program will reach out several times over the course of 14 days. If there is no response after that, the application will automatically be denied.
Hunsinger said anyone who’s applied and hasn’t heard back should check their email’s spam folder because sometimes the emails get stuck in there.
Data from the RentReliefRI dashboard shows out of more than 7,000 applications, nearly 3,000 are complete. As of Monday, only 758 have been approved.