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Philadelphia opens COVID-19 emergency rental assistance program

Christian Banchs

Christian Banchs is a nurse who also who also volunteers with the Philadelphia Tenants Union on housing issues. (Courtesy of Christian Banchs)

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Mayor Jim Kenney is tapping $10 million in federal relief funds to help Philadelphia renters who have lost income because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program aims to provide rental assistance to 3,000 families in Philadelphia.

The program will provide up to three months of rental subsidies to certain households earning 50% or less of the area median income prior to COVID-19 shutdown — about $48,300 per year for a family of four.

“Unprecedented job losses have placed financial pressure on both renters and landlords,” Kenney said in a prepared statement. “The COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program will help thousands of Philadelphia renters and, in turn, help landlords. Keeping people in their homes is critical during this crisis.”

More than one in four Pennsylvanians have filed for unemployment since Gov. Tom Wolf announced the closure of nonessential businesses on March 16. In the Philadelphia region, the count of newly unemployed exceeds numbers seen during the “worst of the Great Recession,” said Jeff Hornstein, executive director of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia.

Eviction filings in Philadelphia show that thousands of city residents are at risk of losing their homes when an executive order from Wolf banning evictions and foreclosures lifts on July 10.

To qualify for Philadelphia’s rental assistance program, applicants must currently have a valid lease to rent an apartment or house in the city and have lost income because of COVID-19. Renters must submit proof of income loss for all adult members of the household, a valid ID that matches the name on the lease and a signed affidavit confirming loss of income due to COVID-19.

Renters are not eligible if they currently live in public housing, receive other government rental assistance, have unpaid rent from before April or are currently in the process of being evicted.

For the renters to participate, their landlords must meet certain qualifications. They must have a rental license and be current in city taxes. If necessary, landlords will be given one week to resolve these issues with the City.

Applicants do not have to have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to be eligible.

Applications may be submitted via a new website called PHLRentAssist.org to accept applications, with paper application forms available through the city’s 311 nonemergency hotline.

Submissions will begin Tuesday, May 12, at 10 a.m, with a deadline to apply by Saturday, May 16, at 5 p.m.

WHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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