PROVIDENCE (AP) — Gov. Gina Raimondo on Friday announced a $7 million effort to help residents facing eviction.

The Safe Harbor program administered by the United Way of Rhode Island will help tenants and landlords reach a new payment plan for past due rent in order to avoid the court eviction process.

Qualifying households will be eligible for legal representation, as well as financial assistance for rent payments accumulated on or after March 1.

To qualify, residents must have an annual income at or below 80% of area median income and have missed rent payments due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The effort is being funded through the state’s share of the $2 trillion federal stimulus bill to address the coronavirus pandemic.

Raimondo had issued a moratorium on the filing of new evictions through June, but that was lifted July 1. The Providence Journal reports more than 500 eviction cases have since been filed in state courts, with the majority citing nonpayment of rent.

Raimondo's office earlier launched the $6.5 million HousingHelp RI program to provide payments to renters facing eviction. She's also launched the Landlord Challenge to encourage landlords to rent to people experiencing or facing homelessness.

Last week, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza launched a $1 million partnership with Crossroads Rhode Island and others to provide legal assistance to city residents facing eviction.

A look at other coronavirus developments in Massachusetts:

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CLAM SHACK DINING

A popular clam shack in Rhode Island says it will stop offering outdoor and indoor dining because customers are refusing to wear masks and follow other coronavirus pandemic safety rules.

Two Little Fish at Misquamicut Beach in Westerly posted a lengthy message on Facebook Thursday in which it announced it will be returning to takeout service only.

The eatery said it wasn't economically feasible to continuing dine-in service because state restrictions limited it to only five tables. It also said too many guest were “profane, verbally abusive to our staff, and refused to follow the most basic instructions” like wearing masks.

“It's a pandemic, people. Deal with it,” the clam shack said in all capital letters.

Raimondo on Friday was also critical of Misquamicut beachgoers. She said too many were flooding the beach in large groups and failing to follow social distancing rules and mask wearing requirements.

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VIRUS CASES

State health officials on Friday reported two more coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the death toll to 976 in Rhode Island.

The Department of Health also said 45 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total since the pandemic started to more than 17,000.

There were roughly 60 people hospitalized with the virus as of Wednesday, the most recent data available.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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