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Pennsylvanians urged to apply for rental assistance

A ruling from the US District Court for the District of Columbia struck down the CDC’s nationwide moratorium on evictions established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Department of Human Services Acting Secretary Meg Snead today issued the following statement on a ruling from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia that struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide moratorium on evictions established in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The United States Department of Justice is appealing the ruling, but residential renters and landlords should not wait to pursue assistance available through Pennsylvania’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

“Wednesday’s ruling bodes a dangerous path ahead as we all work to recover from the continued economic insecurity created by this pandemic. During a period of great danger to health and wellbeing and unprecedented loss of employment and income, the eviction moratorium has allowed people to remain housed – a basic need that can help those most affected by the pandemic in the last 15 months have a sense of stability necessary to weather these crises.

“A recent report from the United States Census Bureau found that more than 30 percent of adults in Pennsylvania are behind on rent or mortgage payments and could face eviction or foreclosure in the next few months. A wave of evictions would be disastrous for our local economies that have already been strained by this pandemic and would bring about another public health crisis. A rapid spike in homelessness would further destabilize individuals and families in a way that could lead to significant, long-term health and economic disparities lasting far beyond this pandemic.

“I urge anyone who has experienced financial hardship because of this pandemic and is behind on rental payments to apply for ERAP now. This is a lifeline for renters and landlords, an investment in our long-term economic recovery and our personal wellbeing. Do not wait – start the application process now so you do not have to risk eviction and further instability and uncertainty. This program exists so that when the moratorium ends, we can all focus on our recovery and moving forward. Let it help you.”

The Wolf Administration built the ERAP in partnership with the General Assembly through Act 1 of 2021 to distribute $569 million to Pennsylvania households through partnerships with local leaders. An additional $278 million in rental assistance was directly allocated to Pennsylvania’s largest counties by the federal government. Funding for ERAP comes from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, and further rental assistance funds included in the American Rescue Plan Act are expected to be available later in the year.

Households may be eligible for up to 12 months of assistance to cover past-due or future rental and/or utility payments. The amount of a household’s monthly rent or utility bills does not preclude eligibility, but the amount of ERAP assistance provided to a household is determined by program administrators at the county level. Assistance can be provided to a tenant for future rental payments, and for unpaid rental or utility arrears that were accrued on or after March 13, 2020 on a residential rental property. Counties may choose to provide additional assistance to eligible households if funds remain available.

To qualify for assistance, a household must be responsible to pay rent on a residential property and meet each of the following criteria:

– One or more people within the household has qualified for unemployment benefits, had a decrease in income, had increased household costs, or experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to the COVID-19 pandemic
– One or more individuals in the household can show a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability
– The household has an income at or below 80 percent of area median income, which varies by county. Income limits are available here. Resources (like bank accounts and cars) are not relevant to ERAP eligibility.

Applicants will need to provide the following information: head of household’s personal information; income information for all household members 18 and older; rental lease and amount owed; landlord’s name and contact information. If applying for utility assistance, applicants must provide utility expenses and utility provider information.

About two-thirds of Pennsylvania counties have partnered with DHS to make ERAP applications available to their residents online at compass.state.pa.us. The remaining counties opted to accept applications from county residents through their own application process. Residents of all counties can visit COMPASS for information on how to apply for ERAP, including residents of counties that have developed their own process. If a person tries to apply through COMPASS but indicates that they reside in one of the 22 counties with its own application, they will be provided with information about how to apply, including a link to the county application if available.

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