CARES Rental/Mortgage Assistance Application Deadline Draws Near
The deadline for the Pennsylvania COVID-19 rental and mortgage assistance relief program is quickly approaching. The November 4 deadline will pass with the PA Senate failing to pass a bill (HB 2868) to make the application process more tenable. This inaction impacts thousands of Commonwealth residents who struggle daily to feed their families and determine which bills to prioritize and pay.
The failure to pass a bill to rework the application process came as a surprise as the bi-partisan vote of the House received unanimous endorsement of the bill. The critical and long-awaited changes would have allowed more people to take advantage of the $150 million program.
In response to an inquiry about HB 2868, the bill’s Primary Sponsor Rep. Sue Helms responded “. . . it is important to note that my bill is currently in the Senate for consideration, and will depend on the Senate convening. Rest assured I have done everything in my power to advocate for the consideration of my bill, so that Pennsylvania landlords, tenants and homeowners can receive the help they need.”
At the end of September, less than $10 million of the $150 million allocated to the program under the federal CARES Act had been expended. It is likely the program will end with money left over, despite widespread need. By state law, the program’s funding must be distributed by the end of November. Several counties — including Allegheny, Lancaster, and Philadelphia — increased the amount of assistance tenants can receive by bolstering the money from the state with their shares of CARES funding.
Earlier in October, Gov. Wolf announced a significant change to the CARES Rent Relief Program. Getting landlords to participate in the program had been one of the barriers to the program’s success. Currently, renters only get up to $750 in rental aid and landlords must accept that as payment in full for that month, even if the rent is higher. That meant landlords were expected to take a potential loss in rental income.
Effective October 17th, for new applicants to the CARES Rent Relief Program, landlords did not have to accept the $750 rent from the program as payment in full. They could require renters to enter into a payment agreement for the remaining rent.
It is anticipated this lack of assistance with rent and mortgages, along with the continuing effects of the pandemic, will have a significant impact on congregations throughout Pennsylvania who have feeding and housing ministries.
Pastor Joel Folkemer, Union Evangelical Lutheran Church, York, reflected on community needs: “At Union in York we have been in conversation with the county housing authority and local shelter programs to allow our space to be used as an emergency cold weather shelter when the normal shelters reach their maximum. This of course happens much faster with the requirements to space people out. The shelters can hold less and less people, and the county assistance does not have the money to put everyone in hotels night after night. The shelters asked for assistance from local churches about a month ago, and as of a few days ago, we are the only church that has offered so far. I hope that will change soon. We have also seen an increased homeless population sleeping here on church groups and in our doorways.”
LAMPa encourages everyone to contact their state senator immediately to urge them to pass HB 2868 which will ease the application process to access the CARES rental and mortgage assistance dollars and to push back the application deadline to the middle of November. Locate your State Senator and their contact information here. As we enter the coldest season of the year, please act today to assist our most vulnerable neighbors.
Additionally, LAMPa anticipates sharing an Action Alert regarding the CARES rental and mortgage assistance dollars with our constituents immediately following the election. Stay tuned as events continue to unfold around this issue.