PHILADELPHIA – The federal moratorium on evictions has been extended through July 31 – but the Biden administration says this is the final extension, and groups helping renters in Pennsylvania are worried the assistance in place has been slow to reach those in need. 

Pennsylvania used $570 million it received from the federal government in January to set up an Emergency Rental Assistance Program for renters affected by COVID-19. 

But Rachel Garland, managing attorney of the housing unit at Philadelphia’s Community Legal Services, said many applications are still being processed – and 30 days won’t be enough time to ensure those funds are dispersed.

“It’s a real opportunity for tenants and landlords to be able to stabilize, while still waiting for tenants to be economically stable again,” said Garland. “So, an additional 30 days until the end of July definitely helps – we’ll take every 30 days we can get – but there’s going to need to be long-lasting programs that support tenants and landlords.”

Philadelphia received its own $97 million allotment for its “PHLRentalAssist” program. Statewide, more than 93,000 households are currently at risk of eviction or foreclosure, according to a recent U.S. Census Bureau survey

In Lancaster County alone, more than 2,000 people have applied for the county’s rental assistance program. Shelby Nauman, chief impact officer of the Lancaster housing nonprofit Tenfold, said an added challenge during the pandemic has been the lack of affordable housing.

“So, what that is doing is really increasing the cost of rental housing,” said Nauman. “So, as this moratorium ends, we’re starting to hear stories of people who are having their rent increase upwards of 25 to 30%. And for folks on a fixed income, you know, that’s just devastating.”

Some programs Nauman would like to see receive increased funding to support renters and stabilize the housing market include housing counseling and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit for developers. The latter would help increase the supply of affordable housing units.

Emily Scott