Pennsylvania has launched a multi-million dollar rental assistance program for residents facing financial hardship due to coronavirus restrictions, part of an ongoing, massive effort to combat the economic fallout from the pandemic.
Funded through federal relief funding, this will ultimately provide $150 million in rental assistance to qualified tenants and $25 million to homeowners — an effort made possible after legislation was passed last month. The state anticipates the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency will be able to help thousands of households make up to three months of rent.
Renters can apply for assistance online at https://www.phfa.org/pacares/ until Sept. 30.
The PHFA’s CARES Rent Relief Program is part of a $2.6 billion spending plan that state lawmakers approved in May.
“Many people, through no fault of their own, are finding themselves and their families in jeopardy of losing their housing,” Lt. Gov. John Fetterman said in a statement. “In addition to the immeasurable stress this instability places on people at a time when so much is uncertain, we cannot rebuild a strong economy while people are in danger of being homeless.”
Who’s eligible for assistance?
Eligible applicants must be state residents whose income has been reduced due to the pandemic. That means they may have lost their job, have fewer working hours, or have a monthly household income that is less than it was at the beginning of March.
People who already receive assistance from other sources, such as a housing voucher, do not qualify.
If you’ve experienced a drop of at least 30% in your annual income, you can also qualify.
Note, your income cannot be higher than the median income for the county in which you live, which changes based on the number of people in your household.
The announcement comes as countless Pennsylvania residents struggle to pay bills during the pandemic, which has shuttered businesses and slowed economic activity. Restaurants have closed. Employees have been temporarily laid off. Countless Pennsylvanians have waited weeks for unemployment checks.
Assistance is being provided on a first-come, first-served basis, so the state is encouraging residents to get their applications in quickly.
How much money
Qualifying residents can receive up to $750 a month for a maximum of six months — or $4,500 total — for rent between March 1 and Nov. 30, up to $4,500 in assistance. Money will go directly to landlords, not to renters.
Although it is unclear when the first payments will go out, the state must also distribute funding by Nov. 30.
Can homeowners get assistance too?
The Pandemic Mortgage Assistance Program, another initiative from the PHFA, will provide $25 million to homeowners.
Applicants for the program are also due Sept. 30.
Homeowners can receive up to $1,000 a month in assistance for up to six months for mortgage payments owed between March and December.
Just like the rent program, to qualify you must have become unemployed after March or experienced at least a 30% loss of income.
You must live in your home to apply and your mortgage must be at least 30 days past due.
Other qualifications can be found here: https://www.phfa.org/forms/pacares/mortgage/pmap-fact-sheet.pdf.
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How to apply
Residents can begin applying online at phfa.org.
Landlords must agree to participate in the program. Interested renters should talk with their property manager or landlord.
Applicants must provide income information from February and any income or unemployment information since March 1.
Applicants will receive a unique code to give to their landlord so that they complete their portion of the application.
Questions about the program and your eligibility, can be answered by calling PHFA at 855-827-3466 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There are three applications that must be completed and mailed to your local county organization to be processed.
The list of county organizations can be found on PHFA’s website here: https://www.phfa.org/forms/pacares/rental/RRP-County-Contact-List.pdf.
Here are the following locations for southcentral Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Interfaith Community Programs
40 East High Street Gettysburg, PA 17325-2319
717.334.1518, ext. 268
Cumberland County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities
114 North Hanover Street Carlisle, PA 17013
Christian Churches United of the Tri-County Area
413 South 19th Street Harrisburg, PA 17104
County of Franklin
533 S. Main Street Chambersburg, PA 17201
Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority
28 Penn Square, Suite 200 Lancaster, PA 17603
Redevelopment Authority of the County of Lebanon
503 Oak Street Lebanon, PA 17042
Community Progress Council
226 East College Avenue York, PA 17403
Tenants must fill out the “Lessee Household Certification-Renter Application,” to document loss of income or unemployment documentation, your lease agreement, and rental costs. Third-party documentation, such as a pay stub or ID, will be needed to verify residency.
Can I be evicted now?
On Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf extended Pennsylvania’s statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures — which had been set to lapse Friday — until Aug. 31.
“I am taking this action to help families know they will have a roof over their heads and a place to live while all of us fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” Wolf said in a news release. “It takes one more burden off of people who are struggling and ensures that families can remain in their homes so they can protect their health and well-being.”
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