In early 2021, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law. This law created a Homeowner Assistance Fund, a federal program, to give $10 billion to the states to help households that are behind on their mortgages and other housing-related expenses due to COVID-19.
Eligible homeowners in Rhode Island who've experienced a financial hardship because of the pandemic can get a piece of the $50 million allocated to the state (up to $50,000 per household) by applying to the "Homeowner Assistance Fund—Rhode Island" (HAF-RI) program. This program helps homeowners pay overdue and future mortgage payments, as well as other housing-related costs.
You can use HAF-RI funds to pay a number of housing-related expenses, including:
If you need help for utility costs only, you might qualify for assistance under another state, local, or private sector program, like LIHEAP.
To qualify for financial help from the HAF-RI program, you must meet all of the following eligibility requirements.
Under U.S. Department of the Treasury rules, priority for assistance will be given to homeowners whose income is 100% or less of the AMI ($86,500 for a family of four in most areas of Rhode Island). Priority is also given to socially disadvantaged homeowners, such as members of a group that have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias within American society. But the program won't consider your net assets when qualifying you for assistance.
You might be eligible for financial help from HAF-RI even if you're current on your mortgage or back at work, particularly if you've returned to work but are earning less than you used to. Also, you can qualify for assistance if you're in bankruptcy, but your lender or servicer will have to get approval from the bankruptcy court before you can get HAF-RI assistance. Talk to a bankruptcy lawyer to get information about how to get a court's permission to participate in the HAF-RI program.
Assistance is structured as a grant that you don't have to repay. Funds from the program will be distributed directly to your mortgage servicer, utility provider, or other entity you owe housing-related costs. Each household can get up to 24 months of assistance, but not more than $50,000.
To apply for help from this program, go to the HAF-RI website. You'll need to provide some documentation with your application, like a government-issued ID (such as a driver's license), mortgage documentation, tax returns, household income documentation, and past-due housing-related expenses documentation. For a full list of the documents you need, go here.
The HAF-RI program will continue until the earlier of September 30, 2026, or when all of the funds allotted to the program have been exhausted. If you think you might qualify, it's best to apply as soon as possible.
If you get an unsolicited offer by phone, in the U.S. mail, through email, or by text message offering mortgage relief or foreclosure rescue services, be wary. Scammers are increasingly targeting homeowners who've been affected by COVID-19. The HAF-RI program is free. If anyone asks you to pay a fee to get housing counseling or foreclosure prevention services from this program, it's a scam. You can report fraud concerning the HAF-RI program here.
To learn more about HAF-RI assistance and eligibility criteria, see the program's Frequently Asked Questions section. If you need help with the application process, contact a HUD-approved housing counselor, who will help you at no cost. To find a counselor near you, go to HUD's website or call 800-569-4287.
If you have questions about the foreclosure process in Rhode Island or want to learn about potential defenses to a foreclosure, consider talking to a foreclosure lawyer.
Effective date: January 10, 2022