Philadelphians in need can apply for help through rent and utility assistance program

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After more than a year of hardship amidst the coronavirus pandemic, help is here for Philadelphia landlords and tenants.

The City of Philadelphia recently announced Phase 4 of its COVID-19 Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance Program in an effort to help people pay their rent and utilities after experiencing financial hardship because of COVID-19. Previous phases did not include utilities, only rent. PHDC, the city’s housing and community development nonprofit, will continue to administer this program, and landlords and tenants can apply until funds are depleted.

“We know that tens of thousands of our city’s tenants and landlords are suffering because of COVID-19, and we are doing everything we can to help,” said Mayor Jim Kenney in a statement. “Since May, the City of Philadelphia has put over $65 million into the hands of landlords and tenants to help more than 14,000 households. With this new funding we can help even more families stay in their homes, and even more landlords to afford to pay their bills. We are excited to be able to offer assistance with overdue utility bills in this round, and for our utility partners in getting the word out about this program. Help is on the way and we will get through this together.”

This new round of funding for Philadelphia includes approximately $97 million from the federal legislation that passed in December 2020, with more funding coming from the American Rescue Plan which was enacted in March, although the amount of those additional funds is not yet known. PHDC estimates that this funding will be able to help between 15,000-20,000 tenants with their rent and utilities.

“We kept the water on for more than 70,000 customers who were unable to pay their bill during this crisis, and these grants are essential to getting those customers back on track before penalties resume on May 1,” says Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Randy E. Hayman Esq. in a statement. “Eligible customers who have had growing water bill debts should apply now so they can make a payment to pay off their debt. This revenue is needed for critical infrastructure maintenance and investment.”

Eligible tenants and landlords can apply for up to 18 months of rent and/or utility assistance, with a maximum of $2,000 per month in rent assistance, and up to $2,000 each for overdue water, gas, or electric bills. Rent assistance can pay for back rent owed after April 2020, and for up to three months of forward rent.

“Throughout this difficult period, all Philadelphians have pulled together to help our neighbors who’ve been most impacted by the pandemic,” said Craig White, President and CEO of Philadelphia Gas Works. “PGW understands that many of our customers and neighbors continue to experience economic difficulties and need additional assistance with paying their bills. We thank the City and PHDC for responding to that need by expanding the Rental Assistance Program to help Philadelphians maintain their natural gas service.”

Tenants who received assistance in prior phases of Philadelphia’s rental assistance program can apply for Phase 4; however not for the months where they have received assistance from previous phases or from any other rent assistance program. If a landlord applies on behalf of a tenant, they need written consent from the tenant and the tenant must be eligible.

For more information and a list of specific eligibility requirements for both landlords and tenants, visit phlrentassist.org

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