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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday announced the details of a $50 million program to help families facing eviction or foreclosure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Northam said the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP) will provide short-term financial assistance on behalf of households in the form of rent and mortgage payments. The money is coming from the state's share of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.

“Expanding access to safe, affordable housing has been and will continue to be a top priority of my administration, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” Northam said in a news release.  

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development will administer the $50 million program through a variety of partners, including nonprofit organizations and local governments, which will receive upfront funds that they will distribute on behalf of eligible households. Individuals and families receiving funding will also be connected to housing counseling services and receive other technical assistance.

Eligible households must demonstrate an inability to make rent or mortgage payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Monthly rent or mortgage must be at or below 150 percent fair market rent, and eligible households must have a gross household income at or below 80 percent of area median income.

To ensure RMRP funding assists households most in need, the program will complete targeted outreach to communities of color across Virginia. Before the pandemic, analysis from RVA Eviction Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University found that minority communities had higher eviction rates, even after controlling for income, property value, and other characteristics. The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a disproportionate impact on people of color.

Erik Johnston, director of the housing department, said, “We urge all tenant advocates, landlords, lenders, philanthropy, local governments and faith communities to partner with your local program providers to ensure that these funds stretch as far as possible to Virginians most in need of this assistance.”

The program will also give precedence to households without other federal and state eviction or foreclosure protections. From June 29 to July 20, priority will be given to households with current gross incomes equal to or below 50 percent of the adjusted median income. After July 20, households with current gross incomes at or below 80 percent of the adjusted median income will be also be included. In addition, households with an unlawful detainer action dated prior to June 8 will be given top consideration.

To identify the local RMRP administering organization for a household and to conduct a self-assessment for eligibility, individuals should visit dhcd.virginia.gov/eligibility or call 211 VIRGINIA by dialing 2-1-1 from their phone. Additional information is available at StayHomeVirginia.com.

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