LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — The federal eviction moratorium has expired, but the Emergency Rental Assitance Program (ERAP) can still help tenants impacted by COVID-19 cover rent and utility costs and remain housed. The Lancaster County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities (LCHRA), which lead the distribution of ERAP funds in the county, are hosting several upcoming events to help tenants apply for financial assistance.
LCHRA hosted its first Rental and Utilities Assistance Community Days at Clipper Magazine Stadium in July. Justin Eby, executive director of LCHRA, said that 257 households attended that two-day event, and now the organization is looking to expand the events to other areas in the county with additional community days in Columbia and Ephrata as well as Lancaster.
Around $7 million have already been distributed in Lancaster County through ERAP, Eby said, but he hopes more funds can be distributed to help both renters and landlords.
The biggest challenge in getting these funds out into the community is communication, Eby said. Tenants might not know about the program, they might not know how to apply for assistance, or they might not have entirely completed their applications.
“The reason why we started these events was to help address that communication problem,” Eby said. LCHRA has also been reaching out to tenants who have only partially completed ERAP applications.
In addition to facing communication obstacles, tenants may not have access to the technology needed to fill out online applications or scan documents to upload to their accounts, Eby noted. The community days events can help with that, too.
At the Rental and Utility Assistance Community Days, renters can get in-person help with scanning and submitting documents, registering their accounts to apply for ERAP funds, and troubleshooting their ERAP applications.
The upcoming Rental and Utility Assitance Community Days are as follows:
Lancaster Community Day
When: Sept. 16 from noon to 5:30 p.m.
Where: Clipper Magazine Stadium
Columbia Community Day
When: Sept. 20 from 3-7 p.m.
Where: Columbia Market House
Northern Lancaster Community Day
When: Oct. 1 from 2-7 p.m.
Where: Ephrata Public Library
Pre-registration for the community days is highly encouraged, but walk-ins will not be turned away, Eby said. Masks will be required at the events.
Attendees are encouraged to bring documents like their lease, proof of income, and notices about rental and utility arrears to the events so event staff members are able to best help them complete their applications.
Those unable to attend the community days can call 717-590-3101 for ERAP help. Several organizations around Lancaster County also regularly offer in-person assistance. Those locations are listed on this website.
What is ERAP?
ERAP, or the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, is a federal program that provides money to tenants who are struggling with rent or utility payments because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. LCHRA manages the distribution of ERAP funds in Lancaster County.
“Renters have had some hardships in the ability to pay rent, landlords are also experiencing hardships because their tenants are not paying their rent, so the Emergency Rental Assistance Program helps tenants pay their back rent, their utilities,” Eby said.
The program can cover unpaid rent back to March 2020, and it can also provide assistance with future payments for up to three months following tenants’ ERAP applications, Eby explained. The payments can cover up to the full cost of rent in addition to costs like late fees, trash bills, water bills, and utility payments.
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Only tenants are able to apply for ERAP funds, but landlords or community organizations can provide assistance and information. Currently, the program will last at least through September 2022, Eby said, so individuals facing new hardships or working to cover previous missed payments can still apply for assistance.
More information about ERAP and how to apply in Lancaster County can be found online at lancasterhelp.rent.