Category Archives: Pittsburgh

Rent Relief for Pennsylvanians

As a part of the CARES Act, states were given money to run their choice of any number of programs. One of those programs is rental assistance.

Today, applications opened up for the state of Pennsylvania. Here’s a little more information for those who have fallen behind on their rent.

The CARES Rent Relief Program Launches in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s CARES Rent Relief Program (RRP) is open to all Pennsylvanians, but administered at the county level. Here are some of the key details.

How do I qualify?

To qualify for assistance, you as the renter must have seen a household income decrease of at least 30% directly because of COVID-19 related circumstances. That doesn’t mean you have to have been sick — it just means that this disaster impacted your monthly income.

You must also meet income eligibility limits for your county. Eligibility limits are set at the area median income based on your county.

The bigger your household, the higher the income limits.

How much help can I get?

Pennsylvania has capped assistance at $750/month. It is possible to get less money if your rent is less than $750.

You can get assistance for up to six months, for a total of up to $4,500 in assistance. The program has $150M in funding, though theoretically it could be expanded in the future.

You: I thought people didn’t have to pay rent during Corona because Congress said.
Me: No, that’s not how it works, unfortunately.

How will I get the money?

The money will be paid to your landlord by the county organization managing the RRP in your area.

When your landlords agrees to participate in the RRP, they must agree to accept the max payment of $750 as if the rent were paid in full. They will have to forgive the renter the rest.

This is a flaw in the program as $750 not going to cover rent for a lot of families across the state.

Some county organizations may be offering additional funding on top of the state-issued RRP funds. This may help your landlord fill the gap between the $750 and however many dollars you’re supposed to pay in rent.

What if I have a roommate?

Take the amount of rent you’re responsible for in the paperwork. If it is less than $750, the lower number is your new max rental assistance amount.

Now, make sure you are income eligible and that you have lost at least 30% of your income due to pandemic-related issues.

Let’s say you split $800 rent two ways. You could each potentially qualify for $400 in rental assistance each month for up to six months, getting your landlord 100% of the money even though the total exceeds that $750 limit.

Can I request assistance for future months?

Yes. If you qualify for the program, you can get help for months past and those upcoming months which you anticipate to be economically troublesome.

You will have to report your income every month. If it goes up high enough, you could lose access to rental assistance for that month.

How do I apply?

You can apply from July 6, 2020 through September 30, 2020. The organization you apply with will vary by county. Find your county organization here.

For my Pittsburgh readers: Allegheny County

What forms do I need to submit?

You will have to fill out one form and your landlord will have to fill out two. They’re fairly simple — as long as your landlord has been taking good care of you. They have to certify that the property is up to code, but the state’s not going to run inspections.

You will need to get your landlord on board for this to work. Here are the forms they have to fill out:

You will need to fill out the:

You will also need to submit supporting financial documentation as the renter, a copy of the lease and a utility bill or some other proof that you live at the property.

Depending on your county, you may be able to fill these forms out online. You should be able to submit them via email across the state.

Do other states have COVID rent relief programs?

Yes! But everything from their existence to their income limits to their payouts and administration process is going to vary based on state.

It’s fun, I know.

To find more information on your state’s program, search for “(your state)” + “CARES rent relief program” or some variation thereof.

Your city or metro area may be offering rental assistance at the local level, too. These programs exist, but they don’t exist everywhere and aren’t being done in a uniform manner. So you really have to search.

The most comprehensive list I have been able to find is from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. It does not include every single locality, though it does have information for some major cities.

Note

Assistance programs have been changing quickly during the pandemic. The information above is gleaned from the linked documents produced by the state of Pennsylvania at the release of the program. Requirements may change and there may be expansions or contractions of the program in the future.

Contact your county office for the most up-to-date information.

Pandemic Money Hacks

As I find money tips that may help through this crisis, I’m sharing them in batches. You can find Batch 1 here.

Here’s what we’ve got in store for Batch 2:

You won’t lose unemployment if your employer illegally reopens in PA.

Governor Wolf.

Through this crisis, he has allowed public health and science to inform his decisions, and as a result, saved countless lives.

He has offered Pennsylvanians the opportunity to do the right thing voluntarily, but has also held businesses accountable when they openly flout the emergency orders put in place to protect the health of our citizens, our healthcare systems and our communities.

And now, he’s out there protecting your unemployment benefits.

Human lives over short-term profit.

Here is the full statement from the governor. Please read it knowing it comes from a twice-democratically-elected governor in a very purple state, regardless of the skewed images you might see on social media.

Basically, about half the state had restrictions partially lifted last week. But that’s not how people here were treating it.

More important to the people of Pennsylvania, that’s not how some employers wanted to treat it. There was this very real, lingering question:

If an employer opens up in an area where it’s been deemed unsafe to work, will you lose your unemployment by refusing to go back into a potentially unsafe environment?

Because maybe, just maybe, you’re not willing to die or kill your grandma for your employer?

The answer is, ‘No,’ according to Wolf’s statement.

At the time of writing this piece, in the state of Pennsylvania, if your business or locality is violating state orders by opening prematurely, you are completely within your bounds to refuse to go in to work. If you stay home, you will continue to be eligible for unemployment benefits.

This is a huge relief for anyone worried about their own health, or the health of the communities in which they live.

It’s a huge relief for the average person struggling economically through this mess as their employers attempt use them as pawns to manipulate financial benefit programs like PPP.

Mortgage Forbearance

If you’re struggling to pay your mortgage, or are a renter who would like to know what your landlord’s options might be before you approach them about a late rent payment, it’s going to be really helpful to understand the mortgage forbearance rules out there right now.

You can find some perspective from Justine at Live with Plum. As she notes, forbearance is not forgiveness; you’re still going to need a plan to pay this off.

If you’re a renter, you’ll want to check the Batch 1 tips to find out why it’s so vitally important to understand your landlord’s options.

Start Looking at Summer Food Programs Now

Even if you didn’t qualify for or rely on the school lunch program before COVID-19, you might now.

At least in Western Pennsylvania, most school districts are distributing food via a basic signup list, waiving income eligibility limits to make sure all the kids have food.

This eliminates a lot of the paperwork barriers that often impede people from getting the benefits they need, and reduces social shaming.

If you’ve never dealt with the school lunch program before, you may not have thought about the summer yet. Luckily, there are summer meal programs across the country funded by the USDA.

Ask your school district about summer meals now. These meals are sometimes administered by community nonprofits and recreational organizations rather than in schools.

But during the pandemic, things have undoubtedly changed.

The USDA provides a searchable map so you can find local sites. But at least here in Western PA, the map is telling me to do the same thing: Contact your school directly.

Traditionally, admission to these summer meal programs required a separate application. In this time of crisis, so much of your eligibility and access is going to depend on decisions made at the local level.

Get in touch with your district to make sure your kids have enough food over the summer. Make your plan now.

Because believe it or not, we’re almost halfway through May.

Support Small Business with Fun Face Masks

This post is in collaboration with Etsy.

Wearing masks was not a part of American culture prior to this pandemic. But masks are an effective way to combat this virus and get our society back to functional sooner.

Studies show that while wearing a mask yourself can protect you to some degree and is definitely a good hygiene habit in our current environment, the most important reason to wear a mask is to respect and protect those around you.

The virus is fought most effectively when those who may have the virus keep microdroplets from escaping their own personal space in the first place. That is accomplished by wearing a mask.

It’s important to note that your viral load is highest before you start showing symptoms. That means that those who are most likely to spread the virus won’t have any idea they even have it until after the threat of giving it to others is at its highest.

It’s estimated that if we could get at least 80% of people wearing masks, we’d be able to fight this virus more effectively than through additional shut downs where people are not wearing masks. You can learn more about this and other science here.

While I’m spending money on masks anyways, I’m looking to spend it at a small business.

Fortunately, there’s a platform that meets all three of my personal shopping criteria. Etsy is a platform full of small businesses, and the non-medical-grade, machine-washable face mask options are plentiful.

10 Fun Face Masks

As I was narrowing down my options, I came to a realization: I’m a nerdy kid from the 90s, and it shows.

With that in mind, here are some of my favorite fun face masks I found on Etsy:

Vader Face Mask

Join the dark side with this Imperial covering!

Baby Yoda Face Mask

How is everything with baby Yoda on it so adorable? If you prefer the light side, check out OneStopRave!

Black & Gold Face Mask

Be still, my yinzer heart. I’m choosing to interpret this black and gold face mask from GoldenSkyToronto as an ode to Pittsburgh.

Sequin Mask

I’m not really doing any fancy things lately — and super don’t encourage you to, either. But for those occasions when you venture out of the house and want to take things to the next level just for you, these sequin masks from PersianJewelryShop are it.

Plus, they come in 25 different colors!

DC Heroines Face Mask

I feel like this time of crisis is a good time to call on these female archetypes. Available via pinkpurr.

Hello Kitty Face Mask

Who else crushed on Hello Kitty when they were a kid? Hello Kitty’s still rad, so I was excited when I found this mask from Macochi.

It comes in child and adult size!

Tiger Face Mask

I love this one because it simultaneously celebrates our collective cultural obsession with Tiger King while throwing us back to Thundercats, but it’s not so specific that it won’t still bring smiles after any one, specific trend has faded.

Handcraftedsterling has a bunch of other fun animal face masks in her shop, too.

Don’t forget the kids’ face masks!

A lot of the face masks on Etsy can be ordered in kid size or adult size. I did stumble across a couple cute ones made especially for kids!

Kids’ Girl Face Masks

I’m in love with this print, but GreerTW has a TON of different options for girls. There are some traditionally boy-themed patterns, too, but options skew pink.

Kids’ Boy Face Masks

Lots of traditionally boy-themed options, at DeTudoUmPoucobyAddie. Though I legit would have loved these when I was a kid, too. There’s also some pink sprinkled into the fabric options.

Buzz Lightyear Face Mask

You can pick up this cotton kids’ face mask at ByZari’s Etsy shop. This particular pattern sold out!

We’ll get through this, friends. To infinity, and beyond!

Pss! Pss! A #Pittsburgh Theater Ticket #Giveaway

PLEASE NOTE: This show and giveaway have been cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic.

This post is in collaboration with The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

This is it.

The final Children’s Theater Ticket Giveaway of the 2019-2020 season.

It’s been real. We’ve seen Ms. Frizzle.

Visited the deep depths of prehistoric oceans.

Watched the rise and fall of Nazi powers unfurl in a one-woman show that was alarmingly relevant to our times, yet incredibly age-appropriate.

In fact, you can still enter to win tickets to see Diary of a Wombat until midnight tonight!

Today, as we bring this season to a close, we’re going out with a bang.

Pss! Pss! Comes to Pittsburgh

Guys, today’s feature show has won the Cirque Du Soleil prize.

Enough said, I know. But here are some more details for the ultra curious:

Inventive, exciting, and ridiculous, this breathtaking duet of mishaps and acrobatics will have you laughing long after you leave the theatre. Inspired by physical comedy of silent film stars like Charlie Chaplin, Pss Pss is a timeless performance of enthralling physicality and delightful expressions. Winner of 15 international prizes, including the Cirque Du Soleil prize, you’ve never seen anything like this.

Content Information: Recommended for ages 8+. This Show features: acting, physical theater, humor, acrobatics, communication skills, conflict resolution. This show is played without traditional words. The theater will be darkened at times during the show. There are elements of surprise.

You’ll be able to catch the show April 3rd, 2020 at 7p or April 4, 2020 at 2p at the August Wilson Cultural Center. Tickets available here.

Win Tickets to Pss! Pss! in Pittsburgh

You know the drill from here!

We’re giving away four (4) tickets to see Pss Pss when it comes to Pittsburgh next month. Showtime of your choice.

The giveaway will be open until March 22, 2020 at 11:59p Eastern.

Use the widget below to enter, and remember there are many entries which you can earn once per day! Best of luck to all!

Diary of a Wombat: #Pittsburgh Ticket #Giveaway

This post is in collaboration with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

It’s that time again! Another great Children’s Theater show is coming to Pittsburgh.

And you know what that means.

Another ticket giveaway from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust!

Diary of a Wombat

Diary of a Wombat is a story about an animal who trains the humans around her to take care of her needs. Written by Australian author Jackie French and illustrated by Bruce Watley, Diary of a Wombat follows the little marsupial as she figures out ways to manipulate humans into giving her the best eats and digs.

It’s a super cute book, and was so wildly popular that there’s at least one sequel!

Diary of a Wombat Comes to Pittsburgh

From March 22 to March 29, 2020, Diary of a Wombat will be touring the Pittsburgh region!

  • March 22, 2p Seneca Valley Intermediate High School
  • March 25, 7p Greensburg-Salem High School
  • March 26, 5:30p Marshall Middle
  • March 26, 7:30p Marshall Middle
  • March 27, 7p Hopewell High School
  • March 28, 11a Mellon Middle School
  • March 28, 2p Mellon Middle School
  • March 29, 2p Byham Theater

You can get tickets here.

Here’s a little info so you know what to expect:

Meet Mothball, the naughtiest wombat in Australia. Bored with her daily routine, Mothball goes in search of shelter and food, creating chaos in the lives of the humans around her.
Doormats, bins and washing lines are no match for this mischievous marsupial. Between a packed schedule of scratching, sleeping and eating Mothball discovers that with a bit of persistence, humans are quite easily trained! 

Based on the multi award-winning picture book, Diary of a Wombat by Australian Children’s Laureate, Jackie French and Bruce Whatley.

Content Information: This event is designated for younger audiences and is recommended for children and adults ages 3+. This show features: puppets, live music, acting, creative thinking, sustainability. This show will be performed without words in a darkened theater and includes live music.

Diary of a Wombat Ticket Giveaway!

Without further ado, let’s give away some tickets!

We’re giving away four (4) tickets to see Diary of a Wombat at one of the times and locations listed above. To enter, simply use the widget below.

This giveaway is open until 11:59p Eastern on March 9, 2020.

Keep in mind that you can come back and complete some of these entries once per day, so there are lots of opportunities to enter!

Best of luck to all!

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