Spotlight PA reports:
With the legislature not scheduled to return to Harrisburg until next week, Gov. Tom Wolf took matters into his own hands and made a significant change to the state’s troubled rental assistance program.
“Previously, each tenant who applied was eligible for up to $750 a month in assistance, and landlords were required to waive any additional rent owed. This requirement is a major reason why many landlords haven’t signed up for the state’s program, a previous Spotlight PA report found.
Now, the new guidance will allow landlords to enter into payment agreements with their tenants for the remaining balance owed.
The Context: While the state’s eviction moratorium has expired, a ban instituted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is in place until the end of the year. Still, advocates say such a moratorium is only a temporary fix for tenants who will soon find themselves deep in debt.
And while the state’s rental assistance program was meant to provide a solution, it has been hampered by a number of issues, including a lengthy application process that requires tenants to submit extensive paperwork to prove they are eligible. Many landlords say the $750 a month cap is too low.
By the end of September, the state had paid out only $9.6 million of the $150 million available, raising concerns that the program could end with money leftover despite the urgent need.
Despite knowing about these issues since the summer, the legislature has failed to act. A House lawmaker’s COVID-19 diagnosis further delayed action. Wolf is still calling on the legislature to make more changes. “These are positive steps, but we still need a larger solution,” he said in a statement.