PROVIDENCE - Calling housing during the coronavirus pandemic “a matter of life and death,” Governor Gina Raimondo said Friday that the state will begin offering $2,000 bonuses to landlords who agree to rent units to needy families.
Raimondo said the state wants to secure housing for 100 families by July 1, and the $2,000 bonus is designed as an incentive for landlords to accept housing vouchers such as Section 8. They will receive $500 for each additional unit that they rent to low-income families.
Landlords will also be eligible for $2,000 grants to make minor repairs to units if they agree to rent to low-income families.
Raimondo said she has long believed it is wrong for landlords to discriminate against potential tenants with housing vouchers, but it’s “especially wrong and especially problematic” during a pandemic. State lawmakers were expected to consider legislation this year to ban landlords from refusing to accept housing vouchers, but it’s unclear if the bill will move forward.
The housing announcement came on the same day that the state Department of Health announced 10 more residents have died from the coronavirus, bringing the total number of fatalities to 833. There were 84 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 15,947.
The health department also announced that it believes that 2.2 percent of Rhode Island residents have COVID-19 antibodies, although the rate is far higher in minority communities. Roughly 8.2 percent of Latinos and 5.2 percent of Black residents have COVID-19 antibodies. The results were based on a a study that the state conducted on a random sample of 500 to 750 residents.
Raimondo said the data is “trending in the right direction,” but she warned that the virus is still present in the state.
“The virus hasn’t changed, we’ve changed,” she said.
The governor also announced that the state wants to move from testing 400 asymptomatic residents per day to 900 by next week, and the state is asking all employees in close-contact industries - like hair salons - to sign up for a free test. She said restaurant workers and bus drivers should also get tested.
“If you are in one of those industries and you feel perfectly fine, I’m asking you to go get tested," Raimondo said.
The governor said the state is launching a website that will track the spending of every dollar of the $1.25 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding the state received.