It is looking increasingly unlike that the Pennsylvania General Assembly will offer any further improvement to the state’s rental relief program, which is set to expire on November 4. By state law, the program’s funding must be distributed by the end of November.
Last week, Governor Wolf issued an Executive Order that made it possible for landlords to enter into payment plans to recoup rent from tenants above and beyond the program’s $750 monthly cap. Previously, landlords who participated had to forgive any rent owed in excess of the assistance payments, which was a significant deterrent.
Many had hoped that more improvements to the program, ones only possible by legislative action, might be forthcoming, namely doing away with the $750 cap altogether, in favor of a more generous amount that varies from region to region, reducing paperwork for applicants, and delaying the filing deadline to Nov. 13.
A federal order protects some tenants from eviction until the end of the year, but advocates warn of a surge in eviction filings come January.
At the end of September, less than $10 million of the $150 million allocated to Pennsylvania’s program under the federal CARES Act had been paid out, despite widespread need. Lancaster and several other counties — including Allegheny and Philadelphia — have increased the amount of assistance tenants can receive by bolstering the money from the state with their shares of CARES funding.
An estimated 15% of Pennsylvania renters will face eviction in January 2021, according to a study of census data commissioned by the National Council of State Housing Agencies.