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Kaine, Colleagues Introduce Homeowner Assistance Fund to Help People Keep Their Homes amid COVID-19 Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine joined Senators Jack Reed, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sherrod Brown, chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, and Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in reintroducing a $75 billion Homeowner Assistance Fund bill. The legislation would help protect struggling homeowners and communities by preventing avoidable foreclosures, evictions, and utility shut offs. The Fund would provide assistance to communities nationwide and be allocated in part based on a formula that weighs state unemployment claims relative to the number of national unemployment claims. This support would build off the emergency rental assistance Congress passed in December as part of the comprehensive COVID relief package.

“Congress has a responsibility to offer assistance to those in need, especially those who have been hit hardest by COVID-19,” Kaine said. “The Homeowner Assistance Fund would be an important step in addressing the housing insecurity many individuals and families across Virginia are experiencing, and will be crucial to our economic recovery.”

The Homeowner Assistance Fund would be established at the U.S. Department of the Treasury and build on the success of the Hardest Hit Fund (HHF), which provided funds to state housing finance agencies (HFAs) to direct targeted foreclosure prevention assistance to households and neighborhoods in states hit hard by the economic and housing market downturn. The legislation would expand this model to provide a flexible source of federal aid to all state-level HFAs to help people who have experienced COVID-19 hardships keep up with housing payments in order to stay in their homes. Through channels developed for HHF, HFAs could quickly and effectively use federal funding to help struggling households remain in their homes while they search for new employment or wait to get back to work. Financial assistance could go toward mortgage relief; utility and Internet payments; and other support to prevent eviction, mortgage delinquency, default, or foreclosure. The Senators are seeking to include language based off of this bill in the American Rescue Plan to help protect homeowners from COVID-19-related financial hardships. 

In addition to Kaine, Reed, Brown, and Leahy, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Carper (D-DE), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

The Homeowner Assistance Fund is supported by a diverse coalition of housing advocates, including: Independent Community Bankers of America; Credit Union National Association; National Association of Realtors; National Low Income Housing Coalition; National Council of State Housing Agencies; Habitat for Humanity International; National Housing Conference; National Community Reinvestment Coalition; National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders; National Leased Housing Association; Americans for Financial Reform; National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients; Center for Responsible Lending; American Public Gas Association; National Rural Electric Cooperative Association; National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association; National Community Stabilization Trust; Council of State Community Development Agencies; Rhode Island Housing; and the Rhode Island Association of Realtors.