Harrisburg, PA - Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today joined President Pro Tempore Sen. Jake Corman and northcentral Pennsylvania officials to encourage individuals and families who pay rent and are at risk of eviction or loss of utility service to apply for help through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), which launched earlier this month. A total of $847 million has been distributed among Pennsylvania’s 67 counties to help thousands of families maintain their housing and utility services. Owners of rental properties can also apply for assistance on behalf of tenants.
“This program has the potential to stabilize the lives of millions of Pennsylvanians in vulnerable housing situations. While $847 million is a lot of money that can help a lot of people, it is first-come, first-served. I encourage Pennsylvanians who need assistance to avoid eviction or utility shutoffs to please apply for help through ERAP today,” Secretary Miller said. “The people who have borne the brunt of this pandemic deserve to see a light at the end of this tunnel.”
With federal funds allocated through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, the Wolf Administration built the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) in partnership with the General Assembly through Act 1 of 2021 to distribute about $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.
“Many continue to struggle with unemployment and lost wages as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important that our neighbors in need know that programs are available to help,” Sen. Corman said. “These programs are based on need, not income, so those who are facing eviction or utility termination should reach out today in order to access funds that were specifically designated to help them.”
About two-thirds of Pennsylvania counties have partnered with DHS to make ERAP applications available to their residents online at www.compass.state.pa.us. Counties in northcentral Pennsylvania using the COMPASS application include Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Tioga and Union.
“We are so grateful to have ERAP as a resource in our community toolkit to help families who have faced a really tough time during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sue Auman, executive director of the Union-Snyder Community Action Agency. “ERAP helps us partner with families and landlords to provide rental and utility assistance to the many who have been affected by this crisis. Some are facing economic hardship for the first time ever because of COVID-19. We’re here to help anyone struggling with housing or utility insecurity and urge them to apply.”
“In Centre County, we recognize our residents’ unique set of needs based on their housing type, household composition, and opportunities for employment,” said Faith Ryan, director of Centre County’s Office of Adult Services. “My staff and I are committed to reducing programmatic barriers and providing assistance to eligible individuals and families in the most efficient way possible. I sympathize with our residents’ anxieties and fears about getting evicted or having their utilities disconnected. We hear you and want to help you.”
Twenty-two counties have opted to accept applications from county residents through their own application process. However, 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.
Applicants can also download and print an application or obtain an application from their county ERAP office. DHS has translated the paper application into Russian, Vietnamese, Arabic, Chinese and Cambodian and made those available to all participating counties.
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.
Residential tenants can apply for themselves, or a landlord can apply on behalf of a current tenant. Additionally, landlords do not have to agree to participate in the program for tenants to receive assistance.
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; AND
- One or more individuals in the household can show a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; AND
- The household has an income at or below 80 percent of area median income, which varies by county. Income limits by county are available on the DHS website. 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.
Applicants should be prepared to provide documents that substantiate information provided, such as pay stubs, tax filings, unemployment letters, and rental/utility arrears. However, if applicants do not have documents, county ERAP offices will work with applicants to obtain documents or written attestations.
The program will end when all funds have been expended. Per Act 1 of 2021, all funds must be spent by December 31, 2021.
More information about ERAP can be found at www.dhs.pa.gov.
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