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Pennsylvania's COVID Relief Mortgage and Rental Assistance Grant Program will expand to offer support to more landlords and renters. Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency will expand the state’s COVID Relief Mortgage and Rental Assistance Grant Program in order to offer support to a greater number of landlords and renters. 

Wolf also issued an executive order earlier this week postponing the application deadline for the program to Nov. 4. 

The changes most notably altered the regulations around the program’s monthly cap that had previously required landlords to forgive rent over $750 per tenant. While this cap will still exist, landlords now have the option to enter into repayment agreements with tenants to recover any outstanding balances. This stipulation initially deterred many landlords from applying to the program, leading the program to help fewer renters than intended.

“We cannot allow thousands of families to become homeless because of the pandemic,” Wolf said in a news release on Tuesday. “Improving the program and giving people more time to apply will help families to stay in their homes. That will reduce the strain on social services and help landlords to pay their mortgages.”

Pennsylvania received $3.9 billion as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security act, $175 million of which Wolf allocated for rental and mortgage assistance. Wolf’s legislature specifically apportioned $150 million to rental assistance and $25 million to mortgage assistance. 

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that an extensive application process also discouraged tenants from taking advantage of the state’s program. Only $9.6 million of the $150 million in rental assistance had been distributed by the end of September, the Inquirer reported. The federal CARES Act requires that all funding be paid out by the end of November. 

“These changes will let more people get rental assistance and avoid eviction,” Wolf said. “Now more than ever, all Pennsylvanians need and deserve an affordable and safe place to live.”