More than 8,700 applications for the CARES Rent Relief Program were submitted to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency since the beginning of July. And more than 1,200 applications were filed for CARES Pandemic Mortgage Assistance Program. Both programs were created to provide assistance to renters and homeowners who lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic. The deadline to apply is Sept. 30.
One of the challenges in processing applications has been getting complete applications, according to Bryce Maretzki, PHFA director of Office of Strategic Planning & Policy.
“PHFA has created a short video to explain the application process and a checklist for renters to review to ensure they’re submitting all of the necessary information. Unfortunately, if we receive an incomplete application, there are a lot of extra steps we need to go through before it can move forward,” Maretzki said.
“It’s important to note that renters or landlords can apply for rent relief for apartment tenants, but renters are responsible for submitting all the documents needed to ensure their eligibility and they’ll need to work with their landlords to participate,” Maretzki explained.
The Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provided $3.9 billion for Pennsylvania and the state General Assembly directed $175 million of these CARES dollars to PHFA to provide assistance for struggling renters and homeowners. The portion for rent assistance is at least $150 million, and $25 million was set aside for mortgage assistance. Organizations in all 67 counties are processing the rental program applications and some counties are supplementing rental payments for renters who qualify. Applications and supporting paperwork should be submitted to these county organizations for review.
For renters to be eligible for the CARES Rent Relief Program, they need to document at least a 30% reduction in annual income since March 1 related to COVID-19, or they must have become unemployed after March 1. If unemployed, they must have filed for unemployment compensation with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Their household income cannot exceed the area median income for their county of residence, adjusted for the number of people in their home, according to the PHFA. Renters who qualify may receive assistance equal to 100% of their monthly rent up to $750 a month for a maximum of six months of assistance for the time period between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2020. Payments will be made to their landlord on their behalf.
Homeowners who became unemployed after March 1 or who suffered at least a 30% reduction in annual income due to reduced work hours and wages related to COVID-19 may be eligible for the CARES Pandemic Mortgage Assistance Program to help with missed mortgage payments. Homeowners can receive up to $1,000 per month for a maximum of six months. The time period eligible for assistance is for mortgage payments owed from March 2020 through December 2020, however any CARES assistance provided must be disbursed by Nov. 30, 2020. Financial assistance payments through this program will be made directly to the mortgagee and the lender must agree to accept the payment without forbearance. Homeowners or their lenders can apply for mortgage relief, but homeowners are responsible for providing all the documents needed to determine their eligibility.
A red banner on PHFA’s homepage will lead applicants to the necessary documents when available and applications are now available in Spanish. The agency’s call center is available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist the public and help with questions about the programs via 1-855-U-Are-Home (827-3466). Callers should listen for the prompt mentioning CARES assistance for renters and homeowners.
PHFA is a sponsor of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® and is currently offering free webinars for PAR members.