Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead today urged Pennsylvanians who are behind on rental payments or having trouble paying upcoming rent and landlords with tenants in this situation to apply for assistance available through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).
Last week, a judge on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) nationwide moratorium on evictions established in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The ruling is on hold as the United States Department of Justice appeals, but residential renters and landlords should not wait to pursue this critical, stabilizing assistance.
“As we continue to live through a global public health crisis and time of historic economic insecurity, we have a responsibility to help our communities weather this time with as much stability as possible, so we are all able to recover from this crisis,” said Acting Secretary Snead. “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.”
Having a safe, stable place to call home is foundational to good health and overall well-being. Last year, the CDC issued a national moratorium on eviction as a public health measure to allow people to stay housed and avoid unnecessary crowding at congregate shelter settings and follow stay-at-home and social distancing guidelines to help mitigate spread of COVID-19. This moratorium is critical in helping people stay housed and avoid a wave of evictions and homelessness as Pennsylvania and the nation experience continued economic insecurity.
The Wolf Administration built the ERAP in partnership with the General Assembly through Act 1 of 2021 to distribute $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, making a total of $847 million available to support renters and landlords feeling the strain of this economic insecurity across Pennsylvania. Funding for ERAP comes from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, and further rental assistance funds included in the American Rescue Plan Act are expected to be available later in the year.
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.
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.
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. The remaining counties opted to accept applications from county residents through their own application process. 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.
“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,” said Acting Secretary Snead. “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.
For more information on ERAP and to apply online or via paper application, visit www.dhs.pa.gov/erap.