HEADLINES

State Program To Provide Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Department of Housing Also Announces Additional Assistance for Undocumented Immigrants and a Partnership with Connecticut Legal Services

Governor Ned Lamont, members of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation, and Connecticut Housing Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno today announced the launch of UniteCT, a new state program to provide rental and utility assistance to qualified Connecticut households financially impacted by COVID-19.

As further detailed in the program guidelines, UniteCT may provide up to $10,000 in rental assistance and up to $1,500 in electric utility arrearage payments to landlords and utility companies on behalf of approved tenants. Tenants and landlords will be able to complete and track applications online from any computer or smart phone. Assistance will be available through a call center and at housing counseling agencies and other community partners across the state.

UniteCT is funded by Connecticut’s $235 million share of the $25 billion Congress appropriated for emergency rental and utility assistance in December’s stimulus package. Last week, Congress appropriated an additional $21.55 billion for rental and utility assistance and $10 billion for homeowner assistance, as well as $4.5 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and $500 million to assist low-income households that pay a high proportion of their income for drinking water and wastewater services, as part of the American Rescue Plan.

UniteCT builds on the previous work of Governor Lamont and Connecticut’s Congressional delegation to promote housing stability during the pandemic, including by:

  • Supporting renters facing eviction before the pandemic ($5 million);
  • Rehousing people exiting homelessness or incarceration ($5.8 million);
  • Providing temporary short-term rental assistance ($26.7 million);
  • Availability of mortgage relief to homeowners ($10 million);
  • Supporting renters excluded from federal assistance because of their or their loved ones’ immigration status ($3 million);
  • Providing homeowners additional time to file property taxes;
  • Working with local financial institutions to provide mortgage forbearance; and
  • Issuing and extending one of the nation’s strongest and longest-lasting eviction moratoriums. (The Eviction Lab at Princeton University gives Connecticut the third-highest score in the country for that work.)

UniteCT brings together stakeholders, including housing counseling agencies, nonprofit partners, municipalities, established community-based networks, and legal services organizations. The Lamont administration is providing $1 million of the federal funding to Connecticut Legal Services to represent qualified households in housing court and is supporting undocumented renters through an additional $4 million in state funds, which are more flexible than the federal dollars. The Connecticut Institute for Refugees & Immigrants (CIRI), along with their community partners, will continue to serve undocumented immigrants, many of whom are anxious about interacting with government directly.

“UniteCT provides Connecticut tenants and landlords a much-needed fresh start and further assistance so our families can get back on their feet without worrying about the roof over their heads,” Governor Lamont said. “The pandemic exacerbated a national housing affordability crisis, especially for families of color who are more likely to rent their homes and more likely to have missed payments through no fault of their own. I applaud Connecticut’s Congressional delegation and the Biden-Harris administration for providing the resources required to keep our families safely housed.”

“The creation of UniteCT represents a significant increase in financial assistance that will be provided families and individuals that have been impacted by COVID-19,” Commissioner Mosquera-Bruno said. “With new programs comes new changes. The Connecticut Department of Housing is eager to continue our work with CIRI, and excited by our new partnership with Connecticut Legal Services. There is more work to be done to continue to combat the effects of the pandemic.”

“COVID-19 further exposed the mass housing inequities our country faces – and Connecticut is no exception,” the members of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation said in a joint statement. “As folks try to navigate this pandemic, the last thing anyone should have to worry about is how they are going to keep a roof over their head or keep their lights on. The funding we passed in the COVID-19 relief bills helped launch UniteCT, which will provide resources to tenants in Connecticut to support housing stability and prevent utility shutoffs. We’ll continue to work in Washington to make sure Connecticut has all the funding it needs to help those impacted by this pandemic.”

“CIRI has long and deep history of assisting refugees, immigrants and survivors of human trafficking throughout the state of Connecticut,” Susan Schnitzer, president and CEO of CIRI, said. “We understand the myriad challenges and reservations immigrants have in identifying and accepting government support, and know that trust is essential for those reluctant to seek public assistance. CIRI has worked in tandem with Commissioner Mosquera-Bruno and trusted partner organizations to implement a unique program that provides access to critical rental assistance for those impacted by COVID-19. We are grateful to Governor Lamont and Commissioner Mosquera-Bruno for allowing us to be a key part of this innovative and impactful endeavor.”

“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our clients who already faced numerous challenges in meeting their basic needs,” Deborah Witkin, executive director of Connecticut Legal Services, said. “We look forward to working with our partners in Unite CT to ensure that our clients can maintain stable housing during one of the most destabilizing times our community has experienced. This program will help our clients begin to address the effects of the pandemic.”

Governor Lamont is also proposing a bill – Senate Bill 882 – which would provide prospective tenants more information about home energy costs.

Homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage or facing foreclosure proceedings should consider the resources available through the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Last month, the Biden-Harris administration announced an extended opportunity to apply for up to 18 months of mortgage payment forbearance through programs Congress created in the CARES Act.

To learn more and apply for UniteCT, visit the Connecticut Department of Housing’s website at ct.gov/doh.

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