Some Rhode Island homeowners now eligible for up to $50,000 in federal relief

Politics

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Homeowners in Rhode Island who’ve been financially harmed by the pandemic are now eligible to tap into $50 million of federal relief money, state leaders announced Monday.

The newly opened Homeowner Assistance Fund Rhode Island, or HAF-RI, was rolled out by Gov. Dan McKee’s office Monday morning. The $50 million available in Rhode Island is part of a $9.96 billion pot of federal funding included in the American Rescue Plan Act last March.

“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,” McKee, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Eligibility for HAF-RI depends on household income, with limits ranging from $90,850 for a one-person household to $171,300 for an eight-person household. To qualify, a homeowner must own and occupy a one- to four-unit dwelling in Rhode Island; have experienced a financial setback related to the pandemic since mid-January 2020; and have an original mortgage balance below $548,250.

Approved applicants are eligible for up to $50,000 in HAF-RI assistance over a period of up to 24 months. The money can be used for a wide variety of housing-related costs, from mortgage expenses and property taxes to condo fees, utility bills and insurance premiums.

More details about how to apply for HAF-RI assistance are available at www.haf-ri.com. The program is being administered by Rhode Island Housing, a quasi-public agency.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee and has had a longstanding involvement in federal housing policy, put forward the original proposal for HAF-RI when the Rescue Plan Act was being debated.

“I created this program to help prevent people from losing their homes,” Reed, a Democrat, said in a statement. “The application window is now open and I encourage Rhode Island homeowners experiencing financial hardship to apply as soon as possible. … Getting this money out the door quickly is imperative if we want help families, neighborhoods, and communities.”

A different federal program created within the last year — the Emergency Rental Assistance program — has been up and running for months to aid renters who have been harmed financially by the pandemic.

Rhode Island received $352 million from the Emergency Rental Assistance program and has been working to distribute the money through a program called RentReliefRI.

After criticism due to a slow rollout, officials tweaked RentReliefRI last year in a bid to get the money out the door faster. As of Monday, Rhode Island Housing reported $88.7 million in applications for RentReliefRI assistance had been approved, primarily for rent payments as well as utility bills.

Applications for RentReliefRI will continue to be accepted through September. More information including an online application is available at www.rihousing.com/rentreliefri.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram

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