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.
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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.
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.