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Cumberland County

Millions of dollars in rent aid available for Cumberland County as COVID cases, eviction filings remain elevated

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Cumberland County Housing and Redevelopment Authority logo

Although additional federal unemployment benefits and paid leave requirements largely expired at the end of 2021, money allocated by the federal government to local authorities, including the Cumberland County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities, hasn’t gone away.

The county housing agency has up to $22.5 million in total for rent and utilities assistance, of which about a fifth has been spent.

“We’ve tried to pivot every which way to make sure everyone has access to this program,” CCHRA Executive Director Mary Kuna said. “If you are facing eviction, come to us as soon as possible.”

Rent and utilities relief funding has been provided in several rounds, starting with the pandemic relief packages in 2020 as well as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Some funding was allocated directly to the county under federal legislation, with further funding being passed through out of the state’s share.

Under federal funding rules, the money can be provided to any household earning 80% or less of the local area median income, a common metric used by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Each household may receive up to 18 months total of assistance, with no dollar value limit. Funds can not only pay for back rent and utilities, but can also be used on security deposits, hotel stays and other transitional costs for people who have lost their housing and are in search of a new place.

Thus far, the biggest impediment to getting funds out has been the application process, Kuna said.

“Generally the biggest hurdle is people not providing us with all the information,” Kuna said. “People tend to come to us at the last minute. Once the eviction notice actually hits, if they haven’t gotten us all the info yet, they definitely do.”

Federal rules promulgated through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that prevented many evictions were stricken in August by a Supreme Court ruling.

Shortly thereafter, federal unemployment and leave benefits also began to expire, with additional weeks of federally funded unemployment insurance and an extra $300 per week of benefits going off the books in early September.

At the end of September, the federal program offering tax credits to employers in exchange for additional paid employee sick leave also expired.

Despite these programs lapsing, rent relief under ARPA will stay around. The law makes the funds available for HUD to disperse to municipal and county agencies into 2027.

The CDC eviction policy that was thrown out in late August covered tenants who were unable to pay their rent due to the economic impacts of the pandemic. Tenants could not claim coverage for other violations of a lease.

Since the eviction stay ended, several of Cumberland County’s local court districts, particularly those covering areas with lower-cost rental housing, have seen a rise in landlord-tenant case filings.

The Magisterial District Court covering Carlisle borough, for instance, saw 14 landlord-tenant cases filed in September 2020. But in September 2021, that number rose to 24 cases. Of these, seven cases resulted in an order of possession being granted in the landlord’s favor, while other cases had settlements entered or were closed without the docket reflecting an eviction.

The pace of filings was sustained through the new year, with 25 landlord-tenant cases in the Carlisle district in December 2021, compared to five in 2020.

To apply for assistance, visit cchra.com, email rentrelief@cchra.com, or call 717-249-0789.

Email Zack at zhoopes@cumberlink.com.

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