Wolf says he might extend eviction, foreclosure moratorium

Gov. Tom Wolf addresses the press Monday, Aug. 31. Source: Tom Wolf twitter.

Expressing concern Pennsylvanians could be at higher risk for COVID-19 if they don’t have stable housing, Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday that he “might” issue a new executive order that puts a temporary ban on evictions and foreclosures. 

Wolf made the announcement at the end of an unrelated press conference Monday, the same day that his 60-day moratorium on evictions and foreclosures expired.  

It came just days after Wolf said he could not extend the eviction ban, a claim that legal analysts met with skepticism

Wolf said a new order would not come Monday. Instead, he implied he might take action Tuesday, the day that judges can resume processing many of the eviction claims that are currently stalled in Pennsylvania courts. 

“You’ll have to wait and see,” he said with a laugh and shrug. 

Evictions have been on hold in Pennsylvania since March, first under an order from the state Supreme Court, and then under a pair of consecutive orders from Wolf.  

Wolf issued his first 60-day executive order in May. He followed it with a second, nearly identical order in July, which expired Monday.

He said last week he would not take executive action to forestall evictions in September, even though legal analysts argued that there was little to stop him from issuing a new 60-day moratorium.

He called on the General Assembly instead to take legislative action to help cash-strapped tenants and landlords.

He reiterated Monday that the state Legislature should allocate $200 million in federal money to help Pennsylvanians pay rent and utilities during a period of record-high unemployment.

But he admitted Monday that he did not stand by his decision to let the moratorium end, even though he said the ban would have to be lifted sooner or later so landlords could collect on unpaid rent. 

“I am continually concerned about the end of that eviction [moratorium,] whether we do it this month, or next month, or October or December,” Wolf said. “At some point, it goes away, and people are going to be facing the very unpalatable issue of eviction.”

Wolf made his remarks at the end of a press conference where he called on the General Assembly to advance bills creating paid family leave for Pennsylvania workers. 

He also touted a new paid-family leave program for Commonwealth employees in executive branch offices, which provides six weeks of paid parental leave following a birth, adoption or foster care placement. 

Wolf said that paid leave policies would protect public health by allowing sick employees to take time off work without losing income. 

Paid family leave bills in the House and Senate have support from Republicans and Democrats, but have not received votes in Republican-controlled committees. 

Research shows that COVID-19 spread rapidly in offices, and in workplaces such as meat-packing plants, where low-wage workers are not always guaranteed paid sick leave. 

Advocates say conditions for workers could prove doubly dangerous if thousands of Pennsylvanians lose housing through evictions and foreclosures this fall. 

The virus also proliferates in congregate settings, such as shelters, and in multi-generational housing arrangements where extended families live together.