Harrisburg, PA - Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today joined Sen. Pat Browne, Sen. Art Haywood, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Delaware County Councilman Kevin Madden to encourage individuals and families in southeast Pennsylvania 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 and to sustain an industry hit hard by the economic downturn.
Residential tenants can apply for rent and utility assistance through ERAP on their own behalf. If determined eligible, residential tenants can receive assistance through ERAP regardless of a landlord’s level of cooperation in the process. Likewise, landlords can apply for assistance on behalf of tenants and receive rental assistance directly if the tenant is eligible.
“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, and I encourage landlords to do so on behalf of their eligible tenants,” 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.
“Renters and landlords have faced tremendous adversity and financial struggles during this once-in-a-generation pandemic. As the Commonwealth has seen unprecedented unemployment rates due to temporary and permanent business closures during this crisis, it has become extremely difficult for many tenants to make rent and utility payments and, in turn, for many landlords to make their mortgage payments,” said Sen. Browne, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and led the General Assembly’s efforts in crafting this legislation. “I am pleased to have worked with my colleagues in the General Assembly and with the Wolf Administration to develop this Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which provides support to tenants who have faced these financial challenges to help prevent them from being evicted or having their utilities cut off. It is extremely important that all renters who are eligible for this assistance apply.”
Each county in southeast Pennsylvania is using its own process to accept ERAP applications from county residents. This includes Philadelphia, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery and Northampton counties.
“After a neighbor in my district lost her daughter and brother, she missed significant time from work. She fell $6,000 behind on rent. The Emergency Rental Assistance Program will help this neighbor and people like her who have lost so much during the pandemic,” Sen. Haywood said.
In Philadelphia, ERAP builds on an existing rental and utility assistance program known as PHLRentAssist administered by the nonprofit Philadelphia Housing Development Corp. (PHDC). This new round of funding for Philadelphia includes about $97 million from the federal legislation that passed in December 2020, with more funding coming from the American Rescue Plan soon. The City of Philadelphia and PHDC estimate the ERAP funding will help between 15,000 and 20,000 tenants with their rent and utilities.
Eligible tenants and landlords in Philadelphia can apply for up to 18 months of rent and/or utility assistance, with a maximum of $2,000 per month in rent assistance, and up to $2,000 each for overdue water, gas, or electric bills. Rent assistance can pay for back rent owed after April 2020, and for up to three months of forward rent. Landlords and tenants can apply until funds run out through the PHLRentAssist website.
“Since May 2020, the City of Philadelphia has put more than $65 million into the hands of landlords and tenants to help more than 14,000 households. With this new funding we can help even more families stay in their homes, and even more landlords to afford to pay their rent and utility bills,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “I encourage all eligible Philadelphians who have had their income affected by COVID-19 to apply today through phlrentassist.org or call the Philly 3-1-1 line for more information."
Delaware County residents can apply for rental and utility assistance online at www.delco-era.com/. The first step is to verify residency and submit contact information, including an email address and phone number. Then, the applicant will receive further instructions on how to apply. Assistance from a case manager is available to all applicants. For assistance, residents can also email email@example.com or call (484) 729-4200.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been financially devastating for many of our residents and is a health crisis that has the direct ripple effect of an economic and affordable housing crisis,” said Delaware County Councilman Kevin Madden. “DELCO ERA reflects our core value that government can help residents in need with respect, kindness and efficiency. Delaware County’s goal is to serve as many renters and their property owners and utilities as possible in a timely manner with the substantial funds made available by the U.S. Treasury and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
Other Pennsylvania counties have partnered with DHS to make ERAP applications available to their residents online at www.compass.state.pa.us. Residents of all counties can visit COMPASS for information on how to apply for ERAP, including residents of southeast 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 a paper application into Spanish, 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.
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.
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