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Human Services Department, County Officials Urge Families, Landlords in Northwest Pennsylvania to Apply for Rental and Utility Assistance

04/06/2021

Harrisburg, PA - Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today joined northwest 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 in March. 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.

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 northwest Pennsylvania using the COMPASS application include Mercer, Venango, Warren, Forest, Clarion, Jefferson, McKean, and Elk counties.

“I encourage tenants and landlords to apply for this funding,” said Kit Woods, Community Support Services Housing Manager for Venango County. “You may qualify without even realizing it.”

Twenty-two counties – including Erie and Crawford counties in northwest Pennsylvania -- 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.

Erie County residents can apply for rent and utility assistance on the Erie County Care Management website, www.eccm.org. On the home page, find a link to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which will take you to a page that fully explains the program and how to qualify for payment. This page also has the link to apply online. Erie County residents can email rent@eccm.org or call (814) 923-5512 to ask questions or make an appointment with a case manager who can assist with the application process.

“This program is a great opportunity for individuals and families impacted by COVID-19 to maintain their place of residence and keep the utilities on. The quicker people fully fill out an application, the quicker we can pay their rent and utility bills,” said Charles Barber, CEO of Erie County Care Management, which is administering ERAP for Erie County.

Applicants can also download and print an application or obtain an application from their county ERAP office. DHS has translated a paper application into SpanishRussianVietnameseArabicChinese 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.

More information about ERAP can be found at www.dhs.pa.gov.

MEDIA CONTACT: Erin James - ra-pwdhspressoffice@pa.gov

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