Pennsylvania Emergency Rental Assistance Program

It was specified in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 that cash will be made available to states to develop emergency rental assistance programs. Approximately $569 million was allocated to Pennsylvania for the administration of aid to renters, landlords, and utility suppliers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak and general economic uncertainty.

A statute was signed into law on February 5, 2021, by Governor Wolf that established the Department of Human Services (DHS) as the agency in charge of managing administration of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) for the 49 counties that did not get direct allocations.

Applications for the ERAP are now being accepted. Pennsylvania residents can submit their applications online through COMPASS. A number of counties are not making use of the COMPASS software. If your county does not use COMPASS, you will be automatically redirected to the ERAP agency that serves your area (if one exists).

Learn more about ERAP, including who qualifies and how to apply for assistance:

What exactly is ERAP?

A program called the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) was established in order to assist tenants who were experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The program provides rental and utility assistance to qualifying households in order to save them from being evicted or losing their utility service, among other things.

It was mandated by the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 that the ERAP be established. On February 5, 2021, Governor Wolf signed Act 1 of 2021 into law, granting the Department of Human Services (DHS) the authority to execute and operate ERAP in compliance with federal regulations.

What is covered by the ERAP?

ERAP assists tenant households with a variety of housing-related expenses, including rent payments, 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, which are detailed further down this section.

Rent expenses include rent, rent arrears, rental charges for trailers and trailer lots, as well as long-term housing expenses such as hotels, motels, and boarding houses, among other things.

Water, gas, electricity, sewer, trash removal and energy costs such as fuel oil are all included in the category of utilities, which are all separately specified.

Other housing-related expenses include, but are not limited to, relocation charges, rental fees, reasonable late fees, internet access for work, home education, telemedicine, and other similar expenses. Relocation expenses are not included in this category.

Who is eligible for the ERAP program?

Individuals living in Pennsylvania can apply to be tenants on their own behalf, or a landlord can apply on behalf of a present tenant (s).

A household must be liable for the payment of rent on a residential property, as well as for the following:

One or more members of the household have qualified for unemployment benefits, have experienced a decrease in income, have increased household costs, or have experienced other financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; one or more members of the household are at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; AND the household has an income that is at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI).

What are the income and resource restrictions?

The income limitations differ from county to county. The annual income of the household must be equal to or less than 80 percent of the area median income (AMI) for their county. See what the income limits are in your county.

When applying for ERAP, your financial resources (such as bank accounts and automobiles) will not be taken into consideration.

When does the program officially start?

Counties that have signed on to the ERAP will begin providing aid by the middle of March in 2021. The Department of Homeland Security intends the ERAP program to run until at least September 2022, or until all available monies have been depleted, whichever comes first.

How can I submit an application for ERAP?

Most counties can submit applications online at Applications for the remaining counties can be submitted by mail. If your county does not participate in the COMPASS application, you will be alerted automatically so that you can submit a separate application to your county directly. If your county does not accept applications sent through COMPASS, you can either download and print an application or pick up an application from your local ERAP office (if one is available). The DHS website has information about county ERAP offices, which can be obtained by clicking here.

You will require the following information:

  • Head of household identity information, including name and address Documents such as a driver’s license, state-issued identification card, passport, and so on are acceptable.
  • Income statistics for all members of the home who are over the age of eighteen.
  • Your lease as well as documentation demonstrating the amount of rent you owe.
  • Your landlord’s name and contact information should be available.
  • Utilities such as electricity, water, oil, natural gas, and other similar costs.
  • Information about the utility service provider.

Documents that you may be required to submit include:

  • Personal identification, such as a driver’s license, state-issued identification card, passport, or other government-issued identification.
  • Proof demonstrating a loss in household income as a result of COVID-19, such as an unemployment decision letter (paystubs or a letter from your employer).
  • Proof of income for all household members above the age of eighteen is required.
  • Paystubs, W-2s, and other wage statements, tax filings, direct deposit records, or an attestation from an employer are all acceptable forms of documentation.
  • Unearned income, such as unemployment benefits, social security benefits, retirement benefits, child and spousal support, and other benefits, must be documented.
  • Document(s) demonstrating that rent and/or rental arrears are owed.
  • Document(s) demonstrating that a utility bill and/or utility arrears are due.
  • Document(s) demonstrating any additional housing-related expenses incurred as a result of COVID-19.

For those who do not have formal documentation, they can substitute signed letters from an employer, landlord, utility provider, or other third-party organization. According to your needs, the county ERAP office will work with you to obtain the relevant documentation or written attestations.

These documents can be sent to your local ERAP provider in the following ways:

  • Photocopies
  • Documents can be photographed digitally.
  • Emails or letters from employers, landlords, or other people who know about your household’s situation.

How do ERAP payments get paid out?

As part of the ERAP program, the landlord or utility company gets the money. If a landlord or utility company doesn’t want to take part in ERAP, the tenant may get a check from them. A payment made by a tenant must be sent to the landlord or utility company to reduce the tenant’s debt.

It doesn’t matter if I’ve been getting Section 8 or subsidized housing help.

An eligible household that lives in a federally subsidized residential or mixed-use property can get ERAP help as long as ERAP funds don’t pay for things that have been or will be paid for by other federal aid. Section 8 housing would be part of this.

To get help paying for rent and utilities, a household that is eligible for a federal subsidy (like a Housing Choice Voucher, Public Housing, or Project-Based Rental Assistance) may be able to get help with the portion of rent or utilities that is not subsidized.

How much of my rent or utility bills can be paid?

The government can help a tenant with rent, rent arrears, utility or home energy costs, utility or home energy cost arrears, or other expenses related to housing for up to 12 months (plus an extra three months, if necessary, to keep the family in their home, subject to the availability of funds). This is for expenses that have been accrued on or after March 13, 2020.