Philly’s rent relief program gets new funding. It won’t last long

Homes are pictured across from Fairmount Park

Homes are pictured across from Fairmount Park at 33rd and Clifford streets. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Philadelphia is preparing to distribute what may be its final tranche of public funding for its touted Emergency Rental Assistance Program, an initiative launched nearly two years ago to help renters and landlords financially burdened by the coronavirus pandemic.

The city recently received $8.3 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury. A few days later,  the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services distributed another $9 million to the city. That money was reallocated after the state collected unspent rental assistance dollars from counties across the commonwealth.

“This accounts for all the funds we are currently expecting to receive from the state and federal governments for Phase 4,” said Jamila Davis, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation, the nonprofit managing the program.

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It’s unclear if more money is coming.

“I’m not expecting more, but I’m asking and hoping for more,” said PHDC president David Thomas, adding that he’s actively pressing lawmakers, as well as state and federal partners.

The additional $17.3 million in funding, first reported by Axios, comes nearly two months after the city shut down the program due to a lack of new funding. It’s expected to last two weeks and help roughly 2,300 households, according to a city dashboard.

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Davis said the new funding will go to approved applicants, with priority going to families participating in the city’s Eviction Diversion Program, a pandemic-inspired alternative to landlord-tenant court credited with keeping thousands of residents in their homes while dramatically reducing the number of eviction proceedings. Families at risk of lockout will also be prioritized, she said.

Last fall, the city asked the state and treasury for a combined $485 million for the program. PHDC received more than 80,000 applications during the latest phase of the initiative, which is providing households with assistance for rent and utilities. Nearly 25,000 of them have yet to be reviewed.

Since launching in May 2020, the program has distributed more than $253 million to nearly 40,000 households.

Broke in PhillyWHYY 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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