Communities across Pennsylvania call on Gov. Wolf to cancel rent and mortgages amid pandemic


PHILADELPHIA, Pa, (WHTM) —On Wednesday evening, over 300 working-class, immigrant, and Latinx Pennsylvanians joined state elected officials to call for immediate financial relief for working families across the Commonwealth.

At the Freedom to Stay town hall, organized by One Pennsylvania, Make the Road PA, and CASA, impacted families demanded that Governor Wolf and elected officials act to cancel rent and mortgage payments to deal with the devastating financial toll of the COVID-19 crisis.

One in six Pennsylvanians, approximately 2,176,000 people have filed for unemployment since the state shut down, and housing accounts for about 37% of the average American’s budget. Together the sponsoring organizations represent thousands of Pennsylvanians.

They have organized successful campaigns to win resources and protections for working people, including the Fair Workweek law and the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights.

The town hall, which drew attendees from around the state, is part of an emerging alliance of Pennsylvanians working across city and county lines to advocate for just policies for working people. Housing and land rights, especially for black and brown, migrant, and marginalized communities are their top priorities.

Community members spoke of the enormous challenges they face just to survive in the time of COVID. “Getting by on low wages with insufficient workplace safety measures at
Mom’s Organic Market was hard enough. Now, with COVID, I’ve lost work and can’t cover rent. I had to move out of my apartment and am struggling to support six family members who are financially dependent on me.

We need action and we need it now. That’s what I came here to tell
the Governor’s office and that’s why I’m fighting for a rent and mortgage freeze,” said
Alicia, a One PA member.

Maribel, a CASA member and York resident who rents out a few apartments addressed the town hall, as well. “One of my renters just lost his job due to COVID.

We all know the psychological effect that this virus is having on our communities. Now, imagine that on top of that, you lose your job.

Do you think that we could make this person as well lose the house they live in? I know I can’t do that! Our lawmakers need to cancel mortgage payments [so small landlords can cancel rents,” she said.

“Like so many other renters, I couldn’t pay my April rent because I’m out of work. On April 9th my landlord came with a truck and several men to try and take the furniture out of my apartment. Now he’s harassing me and trying to evict me, even though evictions right now are illegal because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said LizaMarie, a member of Make the Road Pennsylvania. “I won’t be able to pay rent in May, and I still need a safe place to live.

We all do. I need to know that I’ll be protected by the government during this crisis. We need Governor Wolf to step up now to cancel rent to protect me and all other renters in our state.

Calls for swift action were embraced immediately by several members of the state legislature and local officials. Representatives Sara Innamorato and Summer Lee, of Allegheny County, RepresentativeElizabeth Fiedler, of Philadelphia and Representative Danielle Friel
Otten, of Chester County, have introduced legislative proposals to suspend rent and mortgage payments during the COVID crisis.

“Our constituents are facing a pandemic and an economic crisis all at the same time. Millions of Pennsylvanians are seeing their income slashed and it’s time for the state government to step up. That’s why we’re introducing legislation to freeze rent and mortgage payments,” said
Representative Fiedler.

Alliance members askedGovernor Wolf and legislators to back the measure proposed by Lee, Innamorato, Fielder, and Otten and to sign onto the organizations’ call for rent and mortgage payment cancelations as the pandemic and its economic fallout wreak havoc upon millions of Pennsylvanians.

“Pennsylvania is sadly leading the nation in unemployment. One of the primary goals of working is to pay for a roof over your head. If over one million neighbors cannot work, I am certain they are worried about the crucial need of housing. I am working with my colleagues
to amplify this need and ease the concern legislatively by freezing rent and mortgage temporarily. One cannot shelter in place if evicted!” said Representative Joanna E. McClinton,who represents Delaware and Philadelphia Counties.

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