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Monday, January 10, 2022

Federal housing help now available for homeowners

Still lots of federal rent money available to rentors and landlords

By Will Collette

Rhode Islanders can now apply for help to stay in their homes through two housing assistance programs that are part of Joe Biden’s pandemic rescue plan.

Our dithering accidental Governor Dan McKee has speeded up the process for rent assistance to tenants and landlords after disclosure that millions of dollars in aid were just sitting there.

Now, McKee is trying to take credit for a new Home Owner Assistance Fund (HAF-RI for short) with $50 million in aid that can be used for paying the mortgage, property taxes, condo fees, insurance, etc.

The eligibility criteria are reasonable: to qualify, household income must be $90,850 for a single person household to $171,300 for a household of eight.

CLICK HERE for more information including application instructions for HAF-RI.

The Emergency Rent Relief program (RentReliefRI) sat on a pot of $352 million until media exposure forced the McKee administration to get to work. As of January 10, $88.7 million in applications for rent and utilities help have been approved.

That’s about 25% of the total federal funding. The program is scheduled to end in September.

CLICK HERE for more information including application instructions for RentReliefRI.

As aggravating as it is to watch Biden’s plan to help Americans cope with the pandemic and the economy get slowed down by Congressional Trumplicans plus Joe Manchin (DINO-WV), worse is watching state and local officials slow-walk the money to desperate American working families.

Charlestown is a good example. Last May, after Congress passed Biden’s American Rescue Plan, allocations to the towns were published that showed Charlestown will receive $2.3 million.

Charlestown Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz (right) was quoted in a November 28 Providence Journal article on what municipalities were doing with their American Rescue Act allocations.

Stankiewicz, apparently on his own authority, told the ProJo that “We’re playing it slow.” Stankiewicz expressed a lack of confidence in his staff’s ability to handle the money as the Journal reported: those employees have limited bandwidth and aren't necessarily "attuned to all the ins and outs of federal regulations," 

Stankiewicz told the Journal he planned to hire a consultant.

I remain baffled at Stankiewicz’s remarks and also at the lack of accountability from his masters at the Charlestown Citizens Alliance.

He insults town staff. He raises questions about whether the town has complied with federal (and state) rules on other programs since the American Rescue Plan funding is far from Charlestown’s first experience with outside funding. And he assumes power to himself that do not exist under the Town Charter or state law.

He became Town Administrator in February 2013 but has never committed to actually living here. He lives in Stoughton, just outside Boston, and commutes. The town pays him a hefty travel allowance to not live here.

We are coming up on his ninth anniversary and after all that time, he still has not recruited or trained a town staff that he can trust to handle federal funds – his words, not mine.

And there is still no plan to handle Charlestown's $2.3 million share of the American Rescue funding.