AUTHOR: Faith Ryan
AGENCY: Centre County Government’s Office of Adult Services
On March 8th, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) went live across the State of Pennsylvania. While Counties were able to set their own start date, Centre County chose to open ERAP immediately. We understand the level of need, complexities of employment opportunities, and unique household compositions in our community. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned life upside-down and there are many struggling to recover when it feels like there is no end in sight. We see your worry and empathize with your anxieties. We are listening and here to help you.
With any new program, there are always logistical challenges and technical difficulties to overcome. Staff require time to familiarize themselves with the program’s regulations in “real time” and acquire a natural flow for processing applications efficiently. We are grateful for the grace and patience offered by our applicants, landlords, and community partners as we spent the last month lifting a massive rental and utility assistance program off the ground. At the close of March, over 400 applications were received and approximately $100,000.00 was administered to support 24 households with rental and utility assistance.
ERAP funding derives from the COVID-19 stimulus package and was created to assist renters with up to 12 months of rental and utility assistance. Rent and utility arrears can be paid back as far as March 2020. ERAP is unique in that the program can also assist with future rent (in 3-month increments) and current utility bills. There is no monthly cap to the assistance available.
To be eligible, households must have a gross annual income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI). They must demonstrate that they are experiencing a financial hardship, have been directly or indirectly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and are at risk of homelessness or housing instability. We are available to talk with individuals and families about what these qualifications mean. For some, they’ve lost their job and have been collecting unemployment. The decrease in income has made it challenging for them to keep up with their monthly bills. For others, their income may have remained the same, but they are seeing increased costs with food, utilities, and other monthly expenses because everyone is home versus being at school or in the office. In one way or another, we have all been impacted directly or indirectly by this pandemic.
For more information about ERAP, please visit our website at: www.centrecountypa.gov/rentrelief or call us at 814-355-6768.