RI Housing confident thousands of rent relief applications will be completed before eviction ban ends

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Despite state officials’ concerns that financial relief isn’t being provided to tenants and landlords fast enough, RI Housing is confident they’ll be able to get through thousands of pending applications by mid-July.

The federal eviction moratorium had been set to expire next week, but President Joe Biden extended it Thursday through the end of July, adding that this will be the last time it’s extended.

As of Thursday, RentReliefRI’s online dashboard shows 208 applications have been approved, while thousands are still pending.

Christine Hunsinger, chief strategy and innovation officer with RI Housing, tells Target 12 that so far, the state’s RentReliefRI program has used $2 million of its $200 million in federal funding.

R.I. Treasurer Seth Magaziner is expressing concerns about the speed at which applications are being approved.

In a letter to RI Housing obtained by Target 12, Magaziner said the program is creating “red tape” for those who apply.

“RI Housing should allow applicants to provide self-attestations at the initial application and provide documents at the three-month recertification,” Magaziner wrote.

Hunsinger said Rhode Islanders should be prepared to provide documentation proving they need help, but are able to self-attest as a last resort.

“We really try to meet every applicant with where they are and understand their situation … understand what they do have documentation of,” Hunsinger said. “We want to make sure that we’ve done everything we can to do it the right way so we’re not on the hook to return dollars to the federal government.”

In the letter, Magaziner also said renters shouldn’t be blocked from receiving help if their landlord won’t participate.

But Hunsinger said after further guidance, RI Housing has determined landlord compliance isn’t required, though she strongly advised landlords being on board because it creates protections for the renter.

“[The landlord] signs an agreement that says for as long as the tenant is eligible for assistance, that person can stay housed,” Hunsinger explained.

For those who have applied, Hunsinger stressed the importance of checking the spam folder in their emails for a response to their application.

Anyone who needs assistance is encouraged to contact the RentRelief RI call center for help at 1-855-608-8756, and those in need of immediate housing assistance can simply dial 211.

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