As Pennsylvania renters brace for the end of the federal eviction moratorium on July 31, many still face financial uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fortunately, the commonwealth’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) will continue to provide much-needed assistance to renters after the moratorium ends.
The program can help renters with expenses such as rent, past-due rental payments and rental fees for trailers and trailer lots, and may also cover the cost of long-term housing in hotels, motels and boarding homes.
ERAP can also help renters finance separately stated utility costs such as electricity, gas, water, sewer, trash removal and fuel oil.
The program can even provide assistance for other expenses related to housing, such as relocation expenses, rental fees, reasonable late fees, internet services for work, home schooling and telemedicine.
The program is currently accepting applications from tenants, or landlords who may apply on behalf of current tenants.
Tenants who are responsible for paying rent on a property are eligible for the program if one or more people within the household has qualified for unemployment benefits, had a decrease in income, had increased household costs or experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to the COVID-19 pandemic; one or more individuals in the household can show a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and the household has an income at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income.
ERAP assistance is paid directly to the landlord or utility provider. If a landlord or utility provider does not want to participate in ERAP, a direct payment may be made to the tenant. A payment received by the tenant must be forwarded to the landlord or utility provider to reduce the tenant’s financial obligation.
Various agencies are responsible for accepting ERAP applications, depending on the county. Visit the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) website to search for your county’s ERAP agency contact.
We’ve compiled the following information about Northampton, Bucks and Lehigh County ERAP agency contacts:
New Bethany Ministries is accepting ERAP applications from renters who reside in Bethlehem, Bethlehem Township, Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township. Their Rental Assistance application can be downloaded from their website.
Renters filling out the application should be ready to provide:
- Photo ID (e.g. driver’s license) for all applicants
- ID for everyone in the household over the age of 18
- A current utility bill showing proof of residence
- Proof of pending eviction (if available)
- Proof of assets (bank statements and vehicle registrations)
- Proof of hardship for non-payment (medical bills, loss of jobs, etc.)
- Proof of income from Jan. 1 of the current year to the present
Completed applications should be delivered to New Bethany Ministries’ Housing Office located at 313 W. 4th Street in Bethlehem. Office hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
For more questions about the application process, New Bethany Ministries can be reached at 610-691-5602, ext. 217.
Various agencies are handling ERAP applications for residents of Easton and the remaining Northampton County municipalities. Search Northampton County on the DHS website for more information about which agency is accepting your ERAP application if you reside outside of the New Bethany Ministries service area.
Bucks County is accepting ERAP applications for all of its renters directly on their website as part of their Bucks Emergency Rental Assistance (BERA) program. Renters who visit the site to apply should be ready to provide:
- Identification for adult (18+) household members
- Past 30 days income (check stubs from the last 30 days, evidence of unemployment, social security payments, etc.) or completed 2020 Federal Tax Return
- Assets — bank statement from last 30 days
- Most recent rent, if available
- Utility bills, if requesting utility assistance
- Lease/rental agreement
- Late notice/eviction notice (if one has been given)
Renters may still apply if they do not have some or all of the above documentation. For questions about the program, call the BERA helpline at 888-50-BUCKS. Current hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Catholic Charities Diocese of Allentown is accepting ERAP applications for Lehigh County via an online form.
Tenants filling out an application should be ready to provide:
- Copy of ID or license
- Copy of current lease
- Unemployment letter, if on unemployment
- Paystubs pre- and post-COVID
- Utility bill showing payments in arrears (i.e. past due statements)
Landlords filling out an application should be ready to provide:
- Proof of ownership of property (deed, insurance, taxes, etc.)
- W-9 form
There is still time for affected renters and landlords to apply for ERAP. DHS expects the program to run until at least September 2022, or until funds are exhausted, whichever is sooner.
More information about the program is available on the DHS website.