I hope you and your loved ones are continuing to stay safe and healthy as we all continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic. I know these past few months have been enormously challenging, but the efforts you've made to stay home, practice social distancing, and wear a mask are continuing to save lives.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented economic pain to several communities across our country, and ours is no exception. As the economic forecast continues to regress, the need for assistance to families across Northern Virginia facing mortgage and rent payments will increase.
The CARES Act, which was signed into law earlier this year, included several critical protections for renters and homeowners, including temporary moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures, and up to 90 days of forbearance on federally-backed mortgages for those experiencing financial hardship. The House-passed Heroes Act included an additional $175 billion in new funding to assist renters and homeowners make monthly rent, mortgage and utility payments and other housing-related costs.
We passed the Heroes Act nearly 3 months ago. Unfortunately, however, Mitch McConnell has refused to bring it up for a vote on the Senate floor, denying critical new assistance to struggling Americans and allowing the CARES Act protections to expire in the process.
I am also a cosponsor of the Housing Emergencies Lifeline Program (HELP) Act, introduced by my colleagues Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Sen. Kamala Harris. The HELP Act would:
- Authorize $10 billion in Emergency Solution Grants to fund legal counsel for those facing or at risk of eviction;
- Direct the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to establish a database of eviction information gathered from all State and local entities that receive covered housing assistance;
- Restrict credit reporting of evictions to cases where the landlord won in a final judgement or the tenant was not a minor and limit the amount of time this adverse information can remain on a credit report to one year; and
- Requires covered landlords to inform their tenants of their rights and responsibilities.
Thankfully, today the Virginia Supreme Court granted Governor Northam's request for a statewide moratorium on evictions through September 7th. That is good news, but I want to make sure you are aware of a few other resources available for Virginians facing housing challenges during these difficult times. Please share them with those around you who could benefit from this assistance.
The Commonwealth has designated $50 million in CARES Act funding, passed by Congress and signed into law earlier this year, for the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP), which is designed to support and ensure housing stability across the Commonwealth during the coronavirus pandemic. In our area, this program is administered by Northern Virginia Family Services. If you are in need of assistance, please contact your County Coordinating Team at 703-222-0880 (Fairfax County) or 703-792-3366 (Prince William County).
Additionally, the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) will be accepting applications for cooling assistance through August 17. VDSS will also issue a supplemental payment, through funding by the CARES Act, to households who received fuel or crisis assistance during the most recent heating season. You can submit an application online via CommonHelp, by calling the Enterprise Customer Service Center at 1-855-635-4370, or through your local department of social services.
Prince William County has created an Emergency Housing Assistance Program for eligible households who have experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19. The program will provide a one-time or short-term financial assistance for emergency mortgage, rental and utility assistance to prevent homelessness. To apply visit: https://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/housing/Pages/default.aspx
In Fairfax County, any resident in need of emergency housing, rent, or utility assistance should contact Coordinated Services Planning at 703-222-0880.
If you are worried about being evicted because you cannot pay your rent, there are resources to help you:
Our ability to move forward with a slow return to normalcy depends on our community continuing to follow guidelines, including wearing face masks and practicing social distancing. Together, we will prevail.
Please continue to take care of yourselves and each other, and remember that my office is here to help. Be sure to visit the COVID-19 page on my website for more information and resources. If you have any questions or concerns, or if you need assistance, please don't hesitate to call us at (703) 256-3071.
Gerald E. Connolly
Member of Congress