‘We can’t move forward if we leave others behind’: State officials urge Pennsylvanians to apply for rental assistance

    As eviction moratoriums lift and unemployment relief remains stalled in Congress, many are worried that homeless will rise dramatically across the U.S. In March, Las Vegas officials put the city's homeless in in social-distancing boxes at a temporary shelter set up in a parking lot at Cashman Center. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    A week after a federal judge agreed to temporarily stay her ruling vacating the nationwide eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control, state officials are urging Pennsylvanians who are struggling to make rent to seek out assistance. 

    In a briefing with reporters Tuesday, acting state Human Services Secretary Meg Snead urged Pennsylvanians who are behind on rental payments or having trouble making payments to apply for assistance through the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). 

    “Last week’s ruling may create fear and uncertainty, but we need people to know that they are not alone in this. ERAP exists so that whenever the moratorium ends, we can all focus on our recovery from this crisis,” Snead said. 

    Federal judge puts ruling on hold invalidating CDC’s nationwide eviction ban

    As part of Congress’ Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, Pennsylvania received approximately $569 million in federal funds to assist renters, landlords and utility companies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    In early February, Gov. Tom Wolf signed SB 109, sponsored by state Sen. Joe Pittman, R-Indiana. The bill allowed the state Department of Human Services to implement and administer the ERAP program in the 49 counties that did not receive direct allocations from the federal government. 

    Pennsylvania renters can apply for assistance through ERAP themselves or a landlord can apply on their behalf. 

    In order to be eligible for ERAP, a household must be:

    • Responsible for rent on a residential property; 
    • One or more people within the household have 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;
    • 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 (AMI).

    ERAP will continue until at least September 2021, according to the department, or until the program’s funds are exhausted, whichever occurs first.“This is our opportunity to invest in our long-term economic recovery, rally around each other, and help prevent a wave of evictions and homelessness that will create yet another public health crisis that could persist beyond this crisis,” Snead said in a statement. “We cannot move forward if we leave others behind. If you or someone you know is at risk of eviction or needs assistance paying rent, do not wait – apply for ERAP today.”

    Cassie Miller
    A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.