Renters and homeowners struggling to keep a roof over their heads in the midst of the pandemic can breathe a sigh of relief, as Governor Tom Wolf has extended eviction and foreclosure protections for Pennsylvanians to the end of August.

On Thursday, Wolf signed off on a new executive order that will offer commonwealth residents protection from eviction or foreclosure until August 31, provided they have not received assistance from a new program administered by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency or are not already receiving relief from federal foreclosure moratorium programs or judicial orders.

Lenders and property owners receiving funds through the PHFA program have agreed not to pursue evictions and foreclosures as a condition of participation in the program.

"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. "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 wellbeing."

The order only applies in situations where nonpayment is an issue of concern, or when a tenant has held over or exceeded the terms of a lease. According to the governor’s release, the executive order does not apply to proceedings regarding property damage or illegal activity.

As far as the extent of the protections offered under the order, unpaid rent and mortgage payments are not forgiven, and renters and homeowners are still responsible for paying for any owed costs under the terms of their lease or mortgage.

Wolf’s executive order arrived at what some consider a dire point in the COVID-19 pandemic, where many people who were temporarily protected from losing their homes through other government programs or arrangements were set to expire soon.

However, with many Pennsylvanians still laid off or working reduced hours, and with the rent and mortgage pay dates approaching, those residents were stuck in a precarious spot.

Wolf’s administration and the General Assembly have been initiating some actions to help aid renters and homeowners throughout the last few months.

On Monday, a letter requesting a five month extension of eviction protections written by Representative Elizabeth Fiedler and signed by 43 members of the House of Representatives was sent to Wolf.

On Wednesday, a coalition of 55 members led by Make the Road Pennsylvania sent a letter to Wolf requesting an indefinite extension on the eviction moratorium.

The group of racial justice, healthcare, immigrant rights, labor, renter advocacy, housing justice, and legal advocacy organizations and five elected officials stated that renewing Wolf’s moratorium "was necessary to prevent an avalanche of evictions and homelessness" during the trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Pennsylvania faced a housing crisis before the pandemic, which is now worse amid a public health crisis and double-digit unemployment," Patty Torres, organizing director for Make the Road Pennsylvania, said. "We cannot build a strong economy or a strong state when people are in danger of being homeless. Governor Wolf has been a strong leader for our state throughout the pandemic, and we’re asking him to step up and lead again by extending the eviction moratorium indefinitely to keep Pennsylvanians safe, stable, and healthy in their homes."

The governor’s original executive order to suspend eviction proceedings and foreclosures expires on July 10. Prior to that, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an order closing court eviction proceedings until May 11.

In May, the governor signed legislation providing $150 million for rental assistance and $25 million for mortgage assistance, which was administered through the PHFA with CARES Act funds. PHFA began accepting applications for the program on July 6.

Several other government agencies – including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture – have extended eviction and foreclosure protections for properties under their authority to August 31 as well.

When possible, renters and homeowners are often required to continue making payments. Those struggling to make payments have been encouraged to contact their landlord or mortgage service immediately.