RentReliefRI to close to new applications June 1

PROVIDENCE – With allocated funding nearing its end, the RentReliefRI program will close to new applications at the end of the day on June 1.

Launched in May 2021, the federally-funded program, run by the R.I. Housing and Mortgage Finance Corp., has allocated around $190 million of more than $340 million in federal rental assistance, according to a RentReliefRI dashboard.

Based on the number of applications currently in process and the anticipated rate of incoming applications, the agency is now urging those in need of assistance to apply by its June 1 deadline.

Though the program’s funding limitations were known at the time of its launch, its absence comes at a time when many Rhode Islanders remain burdened housing costs, said Brenda Clement, director of HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University.

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While launched in response to COVID-19 related hardships, RentReliefRI “has shown us that there were lots of people (for whom) rent is just too high, regardless of COVID,” Clement said.

“We knew that before, and these programs remind us just how housing unstable a number of people are in our community,” she continued.

According to HousingWorks RI data, over one-third of Rhode Island households are considered housing cost-burdened, meaning that they spend more than 30% of their income on housing expenses.

Additionally, in a WPRI/Roger Williams University survey released last week, 91% of Democratic primary voters said they have concerns about the cost of buying or renting a home in Rhode Island, with 60% of respondents considering this problem “very serious.”

These numbers should push state leaders “to say that some sort of permanent rental assistance to help people navigate through problems and challenges in their lives,” Clement said. “And we can see through rising (COVID-19 case) numbers, we’re not done with COVID yet.” 

In addition to direct funding, demand for the program also shows a need for more policies and infrastructure resources that assist low-income renters, she said, such as vouchers, affordable housing units and advocates to assist people with accessing rent assistance.

R.I. Housing does not see indications of the federal government renewing the RentReliefRI program funding, said Christine Hunsinger, chief strategy and innovation office at R.I. Housing.

While “solving the housing crisis is not easily done overnight,” Hunsinger said the program fulfilled its purpose as an emergency assistance measure, and that McKee’s proposed budget includes further affordable housing measures. 

“When this is all said and done, well over $200 million will have gone to Rhode Islanders to help them stay in their homes,” Hunsinger said of RentReliefRI. “While it’s important to understand that there are still people in need and more needs to be done, this is a pretty successful program.” 

The program’s rollout got off to a slow start last spring, with R.I. Housing distributing just $1 million in assistance while applications piled up within the program’s first three months. The agency attributed this delay to to technical issues.

But two months later, the agency was approving $2 million in assistance per week, and by early 2022, had distributed over $100 million in rent and utility assistance, Gov. Daniel J. McKee and R.I. Housing announced in January.

Demand has remained consistent since then, Hunsinger said, with a slight uptick in applications since R.I. Housing announced the upcoming deadline.

RentReliefRI covers rent and some utility expenses dating back to April 1, 2020, as well as a security deposit and up to three months of upcoming rent payments. The program does not place a monthly limit on covered rent expenses, but caps at 18 months of assistance per applicant.

As of May 20, the program has resolved 39,579 applications, according to a RentReliefRI dashboard, and is currently processing another 14,880 applicants. Of these applications, 29,169 have been approved.

The program has paid $19.5 million in rent directly to applicants and $170.5 million to landlords.

Rhode Island doesn’t offer comparable programs at the state level, Clement said, with most other rent assistance programs coming from private, non-profit groups.  

But these sources “get very oversubscribed very quickly,” she noted. “There are some little programs out there, but not nearly enough to address the need.” 

R.I. Housing recommends residents struggling with rent and utility payments reach out to United Way, R.I. Legal Services or the Center for Justice for assistance.

Eligible applicants for RentReliefRI must make no more than 80% of their area median income; qualify for unemployment or demonstrate another significant financial hardship; and be able to show they are at risk of homelessness or housing instability.

Residents can apply for remaining assistance and view a breakdown of income limits at

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. Contact her at