PA loosens rent relief rules; Eagles to have fans in stands
HARRISBURG (AP) — Pennsylvania is extending the application deadline and changing the rules of a key rent and mortgage relief program in an effort to boost participation by landlords and keep more people in their homes during the pandemic, the governor announced Tuesday.
The state is using $175 million of its federal coronavirus relief money to provide rental assistance to eligible tenants and mortgage relief to homeowners, but officials say the program has not been working as well as intended. Through the end of September, the program has paid out $9.7 million on behalf of 5,686 renters, according to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.
Some landlords have been reluctant to apply because of a $750-per-month cap on payments, state officials say. Many housing units rent for more than $750, but the program did not allow landlords to ask tenants to make up the difference.
That is changing.
Starting Saturday, the program will permit landlords and renters, as well as lenders and delinquent homeowners, to enter into repayment agreements for any money still owed after the monthly benefit is paid, Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday. Landlords and lenders will still have the option of forgiving the remaining debt.
Wolf has also extended the application deadline from Sept. 30 to Nov. 4.
“We cannot allow thousands of families to become homeless because of the pandemic,” Wolf said in a news release. “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.”
Separately, the Democratic governor has also called on the Republican-led General Assembly to lift the monthly cap on rental assistance, eliminate a requirement that tenants be at least 30 days behind on rent to be eligible, and eliminate a requirement that tenants applied for unemployment compensation.
In other coronavirus-related developments in Pennsylvania on Tuesday:
EAGLES FANS IN THE STANDS
The Philadelphia Eagles will be allowed to have a limited number of fans in the stands after the city relaxed some restrictions on crowd size.
As many as 7,500 people will be permitted into Lincoln Financial Field, city officials said Tuesday, a number that includes fans, players, referees and support staff workers. The Linc has a capacity of more than 69,000.
“If people are intending on going to the game, bring a mask and expect to be asked to wear it throughout the game,” said the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley.
The Eagles, who host the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, said ticket sales will begin Wednesday.
“We have been working very closely with state and local officials, public health experts, and the National Football League on a number of scenarios to safely bring Eagles fans back to Lincoln Financial Field,” team President Don Smolenski said in a news release. “After many thoughtful and active discussions, we are thrilled to announce that the fan experience will return to Lincoln Financial Field this Sunday.”
Under the city’s new rules, indoor venues may host events and gatherings at 10% capacity, up to 250 people. That will benefit larger venues, but for small theaters and other small venues, the new rule will mean fewer people are permitted. Outdoors, venues may host events and gatherings at 15% or 20% capacity, depending on their size, up to 7,500 people.