09.01.20

As September Rent Comes Due, Whitehouse Again Calls for Senate to Reconvene to Help RI Renters and Homeowners in Crisis

Majority Leader McConnell still refuses to come to the table on new relief legislation after many months of inaction

Providence, RI – With September rent due today for millions of American families who can’t afford to pay it, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is once again calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to pass a robust relief bill that includes help for Rhode Island renters and homeowners thrown into crisis by the COVID-19 pandemic. In early August, McConnell withdrew from bipartisan negotiations for a new relief package and sent the Senate into recess until September 8.

“Having a safe, stable place to call home takes on a new level of importance during a pandemic,” said Whitehouse. “Renters and homeowners have been pushed to the brink of crisis as unemployment benefits expired in July, and jobs remain scarce. While Governor Raimondo has done a lot to prevent an eviction epidemic, there is much more we need to do at the federal level to supplement that effort. We’ve lost three and a half months since the House passed a strong relief bill, and Senator McConnell is still just standing by. Tens of thousands of Rhode Island families cannot wait another week for Congress to start doing its job.”

Between 100,000 and 143,000 Rhode Islanders, representing between 28 and 42 percent of all households in the state, are at risk of eviction according to a report published by the Aspen Institute early last month. The report estimates that between 30 and 40 million households across the country could be displaced by the end of the year.

“The COVID pandemic has put many Rhode Islanders in a tight financial spot, making it hard for many to keep up with housing costs,” said Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing. “It’s critically important that we provide responsive and meaningful programs and supports to help families weather the storm created by the COVID-19 health crisis. We thank Senator Whitehouse and the other members of our Congressional Delegation for their leadership in seeking assistance for Rhode Islanders and we stand ready to deploy those resources as needed.”

“Even before COVID-19, far too many Rhode Islanders were just one financial shock – a broken down car, a sick child, missed days at work – from falling behind on their rent or mortgage payments,” said Brenda Clement, Director of HousingWorks RI. “In Rhode Island, for every 10 of our lowest-income renters, there are just 5 homes that they can afford. Data shows that Black and Latino Rhode Islanders are disproportionately bearing the brunt of COVID-19 infections and death and historic job losses. Rent and mortgage payments are due on the first of each month and too many Rhode Islanders cannot afford to pay.”

“We've known for a long time that housing is healthcare. That’s felt more true in recent months than ever before,” said Karen Santilli, President & CEO of Crossroads RI. “We applaud Senator Whitehouse’s call for additional Federal housing support to ensure that Rhode Islanders can maintain safe, secure housing during this pandemic and through our economic recovery. Since March, Crossroads RI has taken measures to keep individuals and families housed and has ensured safe shelter for those in an emergency. Additional Federal support for housing is essential to these efforts.”

The House-passed HEROES Act provides $200 billion in emergency housing support, including $100 billion for rental assistance and $75 billion to help distressed homeowners. The legislation would also reinstate the additional $600 weekly employment benefit through January.