HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today reminded Pennsylvanians that help is available and encouraged for anyone affected financially by the COVID-19 public-health crisis by taking advantage of rent and mortgage assistance programs available to help people who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of losing their housing.
“The COVID-19 emergency and economic insecurity have caused many people to lose income or employment altogether and those individuals may now be struggling to make their monthly rent or mortgage payments,” DHS Sec. Miller said. “Anyone who is worried about losing their housing should know that assistance is available and should not hesitate to reach out for help. Access to safe and secure housing is essential, especially now. We want to be sure that any Pennsylvanian who is struggling to pay rent or utilities has the help that they need and knows that they are not alone during this time.”
A U.S. Census Bureau survey found that since mid-April, the percentage of Pennsylvania adults who consider themselves housing insecure has risen by 2.4 percent. The most recent survey – which defines housing insecurity as missing last month’s rent or mortgage payment or having slight or no confidence that a household can pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time – found that nearly 24 percent of Pennsylvanians, or 1.6 million people, are living with housing insecurity.
DHS has released $10 million in CARES Act funding to counties’ Homeless Assistance Programs (HAP) to aid in serving the increased needs of Pennsylvania citizens at risk of homelessness. HAP helps to ensure that homelessness can be avoided by offering rental assistance, emergency shelter, supportive housing services, and case management services to individuals and families. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, HAP provided these services to more than 28,000 individuals and families experiencing or at risk for homelessness.
Questions on eligibility and requests for help can be made by contacting a county HAP here. HAP services vary in each county, and counties can set their eligibility limits as they choose within 100 to 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines. HAP benefit limits are set at $1,500 maximum for a family with one or more children, and $1,000 for a single person.
More information on HAP can be found here. Other homelessness assistance programs can be found at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the National Coalition for the Homeless, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) is also offering housing-related financial assistance. Applications are available at www.PHFA.org for both rental and mortgage assistance (look for the red CARES banner). All 67 counties have local organizations helping PHFA by processing the rent relief applications. PHFA will process the mortgage relief applications.
Renters who qualify may receive assistance equal to 100 percent of their monthly rent up to $750 a month for a maximumof six months of assistance for the time period between March 1 and November 30, 2020. For renters to be eligible for financial assistance, they will need to document at least a 30 percent reduction in annual income since March 1 related to COVID-19, or they must have become unemployed after March 1.
The assistance available for homeowners can be up to $1,000 a month for a maximum period of six months. The time period eligible for assistance is for mortgage payments owed from March 2020 through December 2020. Homeowners who became unemployed after March 1 or who suffered at least a 30 percent reduction in annual income due to reduced work hours and wages related to COVID-19 may be eligible for financial assistance to help with missed mortgage payments.
For more information on public assistance programs available through DHS, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.