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Centre County residents can apply for rent relief

BELLEFONTE — For Centre County residents struggling to make rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, help is on the way.

At Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, Faith Ryan, the county’s Director of Adult Services, addressed the board and spoke at length about a federal program designed to aid those in need.

According to Ryan, at least 65 Centre County residents have applied for the federal program, which is designed to provide rent relief to those who have lost employment or had their income reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act Rent Relief Program provided Pennsylvania about $150 million for rental assistance, which is being administered by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, or PHFA. In Centre County, everything runs through the county Office of Adult Services.

“The program in Centre County is well-funded. However, funds are fluid across the state, so it’s based on need,” Ryan explained. “We have a general idea of our allocation, but again, funds can be moved kind of behind the scenes so where the need is, based on county reports.”

The program was opened on July 6. Ryan said that the county can accept applications for the Rent Relief Program through Sept. 30. The program can provide up to six months of assistance through Dec. 30.

“New applications cannot be accepted after Sept. 30, which is really, really critical for the public to know,” Ryan said.

According to Ryan, the program is countywide. Funds will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. However, Ryan believes there is enough funding to help the Centre County residents who need it.

The program provides a maximum of $750 per month or $4,500 total to renters who have lost their jobs since March 1 or who have had an income reduction of at least 30 percent because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That (number) is non-negotiable. That is in the CARES legislation and as much as PHFA tried to increase that to at least $1,000, there was no budging,” Ryan noted.

Landlords or property managers must agree to accept $750 as the full month’s rent payment even if the regular rent is more than that. By participating, landlords and property managers are attesting that they will not take the tenant to court for the remaining balance.

“When they (landlords) participate, they are attesting that they will not take the client to the magistrate for the balance,” Ryan said.

For those who want to take part in the program, Ryan said they need to have a sense of urgency.

“The program is well-funded so I don’t think there will be a huge issue, at least as of this very moment, with supply of funding to help people. We want to get the word out there to people that are choosing maybe not to get the assistance because they don’t have an eviction notice yet to please get assistance now. Because the second that eviction moratorium lifts, whether it’s the end of August, whether the governor extends it to the end of the calendar year, there will come a time when it lifts. Now is the time to get the help that you need, so please don’t wait,”Ryan said.

Ryan said funds are “fluid” throughout the state and based on need, but she anticipates a total allocation of up to about $2.3 million, which would equal 511 households receiving full assistance for six months.

Eligible households cannot have income exceeding the 100 percent of Centre County’s area median income, which is adjusted for household size. It looks like this: One household member — $62,100; Two — $71,000; Three — $79,900; 4 — $88,700; 5 — $95,800; 6 — $102,90; 7 — $110,000; 8 — $117,100.

For an application, visit: phfa.org/pacares/rent.aspx or any of the Centre County YMCA locations. Once completed, applications can be sent to: Centre County Government, Office of Adult Services, Attn: Faith Ryan, 3500 E. College Ave. Suite 1200, State College PA 16801 or adultservices@centrecountypa.gov.

Each application requires a lessee household certification or renter application, landlord application and landlord/property certification, each of which is available on the PHFA website. If unemployed, applicants should provide a letter of unemployment or note if one has not yet been received. Names and social security numbers are also submitted to PHFA to be checked with the Department of Labor and Industry for eligibility based on unemployment status.

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