Pennsylvanians struggling to make rent or mortgage payments in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic can get a helping hand from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency thanks to CARES Act funding.
Commonwealth renters and homeowners who were affected by the coronavirus and the resulting economic slowdown can file applications for rent and mortgage relief as of Monday, June 29. Funding for the program comes from $175 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding.
Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who chairs Governor Tom Wolf’s Task Force on Health Disparity, has emphasized that it is crucial to get this aid to those in need as the governor’s order preventing foreclosures and evictions is set to expire on July 10.
"Many people, through no fault of their own, are finding themselves and their families in jeopardy of losing their housing," Fetterman said. "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."
About $150 million has been set aside specifically for rent assistance, and $25 million has been allocated for mortgage assistance.
Renters who qualify for the Rent Relief Program can receive assistance equal to $750 in monthly rent payments for a maximum of six months between March 1 and November 30, 2020.
Homeowners who qualify for the Pandemic Mortgage Assistance Program can receive up to $1,000 a month for a maximum period of six months.
Applications are available by clicking on the red CARES banner on the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency’s website.
Renters can submit applications and supporting paperwork to agencies that the PHFA has partnered with in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. In Monroe County, Pocono Mountains United Way will help to administer the Rent Relief Program.
Joshua Walker, Rent Relief Program Coordinator at Pocono Mountains United Way, said that the program should have a significant impact on financial hardships for Monroe County residents.
"This will benefit the people of Monroe greatly," Walker said. "If you are a renter and your employment has been impacted by COVID, you are encouraged to apply."
Walker did note that there are a few requirements those looking to apply for relief in Monroe County, and that further details are available on the Pocono Mountains United Way’s program website.
"To be eligible for the rent relief program you must be a renter and a resident of Monroe County at the time of your application," Walker said. "You must be able to document at least a 30% reduction in annual income since March 1 related to COVID-19, or you must have become unemployed after March 1 according to program guidelines. If unemployed you must have filed for unemployment compensation. In addition, your household income cannot exceed 100% of the Area Median Income for Monroe County, which will be adjusted according to household size."
Homeowners can submit their applications directly to PHFA online, or by printing and completing an application and mailing it to the agency.
Applications will be accepted starting July 6. While the program’s funds must be completely distributed by November 30, 2020, the PHFA notes that the assistance will likely be exhausted long before that "because of the tremendous need by people hurt financially by the pandemic."
Helping Pennsylvanians keep their homes and apartments has been a tough fight in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, as unemployment and strained household budgets have made housing payments difficult, if not impossible, in many cases.
The aforementioned moratorium on foreclosures and evictions in the state that was enacted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and later extended by executive order is set to expire next week, with many families wondering how they will be able to get enough cash together to keep their residences.
Recently, State Representatives Maureen Madden (D-115) and Mike Schlossberg (D-132) teamed up to offer some protection via a Tenant Eviction Mitigation bill package, such as a requirement that landlords create a payment plan option for tenants that lost income due to an emergency situation like the pandemic.
However, it could be some time before these bills make their way through the General Assembly, and the clock is ticking on many payments.
PHFA executive director and CEO Robin Wiessmann said that the agency is aware that many homeowners and renters across the commonwealth have been eagerly awaiting the program’s launch in order to get their outstanding housing costs under control, a vital part of the path to reopening and recovery.
"This CARES funding for renters and homeowners is vital for helping people stay in their homes and reducing some of the stress associated with the current pandemic," Wiessmann said. "Stable housing is critical for beginning our economic recovery from this health crisis."