Legislature’s Corner: Blyden urges HIVFA to speed up emergency rent assistance

Senator Marvin A. Blyden (photo submitted)

Senator Marvin A. Blyden called on Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority (HIVFA) Executive Director Daryl Griffith to rush to distribute the necessary funds to Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) applicants, which officially launched in March of this year.

In recent months, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has eased funding restrictions, and the senator has yet to see changes to local rental assistance program requirements and regulations, and he notes that this delay can have a catastrophic effect. on tenants and landlords.

Senator Blyden first briefed HIVFA on changes to the program at the federal level at a July 8 meeting.e Hearing of the Committee on Housing, Transport and Telecommunications. The U.S. Treasury had recently announced that a second round of funding was being made available, which would allow additional uses such as temporary accommodation costs to include hotel stays and court mediation between landlords and owners. tenants.

The federal ministry also announced that the requirements would be relaxed to ensure that those without a lease can benefit from the program. Since then, Blyden’s office has been inundated with calls from concerned voters who, despite applying for the program months ago, have still not received a notification that they will receive funds.

Since that hearing, a series of other changes to emergency rent assistance and solutions to housing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic have been announced. The CDC has issued a moratorium on expulsions extended until October 3, 2021 (in part due to acknowledged delays in securing PIU funding to eligible applicants), and the U.S. Treasury announced it had appealed for all state and local governments operating emergency rent assistance programs. eliminate excessive documentary burdens in order to speed up the delivery of assistance to those in need.

“Excessive documentation requirements in areas such as income verification, difficulties with COVID-19, housing stability and rent arrears defeat the program’s goals, especially since it is the most vulnerable populations who often have the most difficulty in obtaining these documents, “said Blyden.

Additionally, in April of this year, Governor Bryan announced that the Virgin Islands had received $ 8.5 million in federal dollars from the Homeowners Assistance Fund, which is designed to help homeowners who are having difficulty paying. their mortgages due to COVID-19. pandemic.

“Since then, I haven’t heard any announcements from HIVFA regarding the program, and I haven’t seen any information on the agency’s website. As such, especially given the plight of homeowners who are impatiently awaiting payments from the PIU program, I request a progress report on the implementation of this program, including a schedule for the start of the program and the state of your efforts. to prepare the Homeowner Assistance Fund plan to be submitted to the US Department of the Treasury, ”Blyden said.

“I urge you, in the strongest possible way, to resolve these issues without delay, as this will not only speed up and simplify the process for our frustrated and worried tenants and landlords, but it will ease the administrative burden on housing finance.” Authority, ”Blyden said.

Blyden invites the community to email his office at [email protected], call his office at 693-3567, or message his Facebook page for more information about his efforts.

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