PA Dept. Of Human Services Urges Families, Landlords To Apply For Utility, Rental Assistance
Last week, Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller encouraged individuals and families who pay rent and are at risk of eviction or loss of utility service to apply for help through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).
Two critical points about this program for petroleum marketers–
— ERAP helps tenant households with paying rent, past-due rent balances (also known as arrears), utility and home energy costs, utility and home energy cost arrears, and other expenses related to housing detailed below.
— Utilities include separately stated electricity, gas, water, sewer, trash removal and energy costs, such as fuel oil.
With federal funds allocated through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, the Wolf Administration built the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) in partnership with the General Assembly through Act 1 of 2021 to distribute about $569 million to Pennsylvania households through partnerships with local leaders.
An additional $278 million in rental assistance was directly allocated to Pennsylvania’s largest counties by the federal government.
To qualify for assistance, a household must be responsible to pay rent on a residential property and meet each of the following criteria.
— One or more people within the household has qualified for unemployment benefits, had a decrease in income, had increased household costs, or experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to the COVID-19 pandemic; AND
— One or more individuals in the household can show a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; AND
— The household has an income at or below 80 percent of area median income, which varies by county. Income limits by county are available on the DHS website. Resources (like bank accounts and cars) are not relevant to ERAP eligibility.
Applicants will need to provide the following information: head of household’s personal information; income information for all household members 18 and older; rental lease and amount owed; landlord’s name and contact information.
If applying for utility assistance, applicants must provide utility expenses and utility provider information.
Applicants should be prepared to provide documents that substantiate information provided, such as pay stubs, tax filings, unemployment letters, and rental/utility arrears.
However, if applicants do not have documents, county ERAP offices will work with applicants to obtain documents or written attestations.
How To Apply
About two-thirds of Pennsylvania counties have partnered with DHS to make ERAP applications available to their residents online at www.compass.state.pa.us.
Counties in Southcentral Pennsylvania using the COMPASS application include Adams, Blair, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin and Perry counties.
Twenty-two counties – including Lancaster, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lebanon and York counties — have opted to accept applications from county residents through their own application process.
However, residents of all counties can visit COMPASS for information on how to apply for ERAP, including residents of counties that have developed their own process.
If a person tries to apply through COMPASS but indicates that they reside in one of the 22 counties with its own application, they will be provided with information about how to apply, including a link to the county application if available.
Applicants can also download and print an application or obtain an application from their county ERAP office.
Households may be eligible for up to 12 months of assistance to cover past-due or future rental and/or utility payments.
The amount of a household’s monthly rent or utility bills does not preclude eligibility, but the amount of ERAP assistance provided to a household is determined by program administrators at the county level.
Assistance can be provided to a tenant for future rental payments, and for unpaid rental or utility arrears that were accrued on or after March 13, 2020 on a residential rental property.
Counties may choose to provide additional assistance to eligible households if funds remain available.
Residential tenants can apply for themselves, or a landlord can apply on behalf of a current tenant. Additionally, landlords do not have to agree to participate in the program for tenants to receive assistance.
The program will end when all funds have been expended. Per Act 1 of 2021, all funds must be spent by December 31, 2021.
Visit the DHS Emergency Rental Assistance Program webpage for more information on this program.