Philly launches next phase of its emergency rental and utility assistance program

By: - April 6, 2021 2:51 pm

By Ayana Jones

PHILADELPHIA — The next phase of the city’s COVID-19 Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance Program is now open to landlords and tenants.

Phase 4 of the PHLRentAssist program helps people pay their rent and utilities who have experienced financial hardship because of COVID-19. Previous phases did not include utilities, only rent. The Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation, known as PHDC, a housing and community development non-profit, will continue to administer the program.

“We know that tens of thousands of our city’s tenants and landlords are suffering because of COVID-19, and we are doing everything we can to help,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement.

  • IF YOU NEED HELP: Landlords and tenants can apply until funds run out. To learn more or apply visit here.

“Since May, the City of Philadelphia has put over $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 bills. We are excited to be able to offer assistance with overdue utility bills in this round, and for our utility partners in getting the word out about this program. Help is on the way and we will get through this together.”

The new round of funding for Philadelphia includes about $97 million from the federal legislation passed in December 2020, with more funding coming from the American Rescue Plan, which was enacted in March, although the amount of those additional funds is not yet known. The city and PHDC estimate that this funding will be able to help 15,000 to 20,000 tenants with their rent and utilities.

Eligible tenants and landlords 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.

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“Throughout this difficult period, all Philadelphians have pulled together to help our neighbors who’ve been most impacted by the pandemic,” said Craig White, president and CEO of Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW).

“PGW understands that many of our customers and neighbors continue to experience economic difficulties and need additional assistance with paying their bills. We thank the City and PHDC for responding to that need by expanding the Rental Assistance Program to help Philadelphians maintain their natural gas service.”

Tenants who received assistance in prior phases of Philadelphia’s rental assistance program can apply for Phase 4; however not for the months where they have received assistance from previous phases or from any other rent assistance program. If a landlord applies on behalf of a tenant, they need written consent from the tenant and the tenant must be eligible.

Utility payments can be only for the current month and past-due utility payments. Assistance is not available for future months’ utility bills.

“We understand the economic toll the pandemic has created and that financial hardships are a reality for many of our customers,” said Mike Innocenzo, PECO president and CEO.

“We commend city officials for expanding the Emergency Rental Assistance Program and we believe this new resource, combined with PECO’s various payment options and assistance programs, will provide the support our customers need to maintain their energy services to transition through this difficult time.”

Philadelphia tenants must meet the following criteria to be eligible: have a household income at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income; qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced a reduction in household income; incurred significant costs or experienced some other financial hardship due to COVID-19; and demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.

Tenants can meet the criteria if they have any past-due rent or past-due utilities; have received an eviction notice; or pay over one-third of their household income on rent.

Ayana Jones is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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