Harrisburg, PA - Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today joined southcentral 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.
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 southcentral Pennsylvania using the COMPASS application include Adams, Blair, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin and Perry counties.
“This is a critically important program that keeps families from entering the homeless system due to the impact of COVID-19, while also making landlords whole so they can pay their mortgages and maintain their property,” said Megan Shreve, CEO of South Central Community Action Programs (SCCAP). “The sense of relief experienced by families and landlords is tremendous. The process is simple and doesn’t require a lot of paperwork and, in exchange, it gives folks a chance to rebuild what they lost during the pandemic.”
Twenty-two counties – including Lancaster, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lebanon and York 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.
“Through collaboration with the county and non-profits, we have seen a steady stream of applications, but we would like to see many more,” said Mary Kuna, executive director of the Cumberland County Housing Redevelopment Authority. “The Emergency Rental Assistance Program is an avenue for residents to avoid potential homelessness and ease the burden many have faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If someone needs assistance, please contact us so we can help.”
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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