August 26, 2020
Gov. Tom Wolf has asked the state legislature to temporarily extend Pennsylvania's moratorium on evictions and foreclosures enacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those protections are set to expire Monday.
"The General Assembly must act to fix these problems immediately to provide meaningful assistance to this vital sector of the economy and prevent the displacement of Pennsylvanians as we continue to fight the COVID-19 virus," Wolf said.
Wolf originally implemented these statewide protections for renters and homeowners in May, and he extended the moratorium through Aug. 31 via an executive order last month. However, the state's Emergency Services Code does not allow his office to allocate additional funding related to temporary housing.
Wolf previously signed legislation that provided $150 million for rental assistance and $25 million for mortgage assistance through a new Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency program. The PHFA began accepting applications for the program, funded via the CARES Act, last month. But the program caps the assistance a person can receive at $750 per month, and as a result, state officials said it is helping less people than originally intended.
"The Legislature should raise the $750 a month payment to at least 130% of HUD limits, which would actually assist landlords in higher cost areas, lead to greater participation in the program and increase the number of tenants assisted," Wolf said.
"In addition, the program should allow participants that need assistance to get rental assistance without being in arrears. Pennsylvanians should not have to forego food or medicine in order to remain current on rent and to be eligible for relief."
As part of his fall legislative agenda, Wolf has called for an additional $100 million in funding to the PHFA program. The assistance would continue to be paid directly to landlords and property owners in the form of a grant.
Wolf's extension in July specifically protected residents who had not received assistance through the PHFA, or who were not receiving financial aid through a federal foreclosure moratorium program or judicial order.
Lenders and property owners that received money from the new PHFA program had to agree to follow the state's moratorium on foreclosures and evictions as a condition of participation.
Renters and homeowners have still been required to make monthly payments, but they are urged to contact their landlord or mortgage provider if they are struggling to make ends meet.