Fiedler, Davis, Cephas stand up for renters and homeowners facing payment challenges due to COVID-19

HARRISBURG, Aug. 26 – To help renters and homeowners struggling with payments as well as small landlords, today state Reps. Elizabeth Fiedler and Morgan Cephas, both D-Phila., and Austin Davis, D-Allegheny, introduced a measure that would expand the Pennsylvania Housing and Finance Agency’s Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program.

“For too many renters and homeowners with mortgages the COVID-19 crisis has gone beyond a health emergency to a housing emergency, and it’s time for the state to step up and offer substantive relief,” Fiedler said. “Our proposal will cut the red tape and get the help into the pockets of the people who need it the most, and we hope it will move quickly through the legislature.”

“A program people in need can’t access is worse than not having a program at all,” Davis said. “Everyone we’ve heard from made their voices clear – renters need help, homeowners in debt need help, small landlords need help, and they can’t wait any longer. We’re going to deliver that help and we know this need goes far beyond political parties and county lines.”

Cephas agreed, saying, "As the COVID-19 crisis continues, so do the economic burdens for families struggling to pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads. Our legislation will help break down barriers and help ensure homeowners, small landlords and renters have access to financial relief that's available."

The proposed legislation would:
• Add an extra $100 million to fully fund the Mortgage and Rental Assistance Program.
• Increase rental assistance to 130% of the federal fair market rate, instead of the current $750.
• Increase mortgage assistance to the median monthly cost outlined in the most recent census.
• Remove the time-consuming need to verify unemployment status with the state and federal government.
• End the need for renters and homeowners to go at least 30 days late on payments to get help.
• End the need for renters and homeowners to waive their rights to get help.
• Set aside a portion of the aid to go to small “mom and pop” landlords instead of giant management companies.
The lawmakers noted with the governor’s eviction moratorium set to expire on Aug. 31, the need for this help is more urgent than ever.

This proposal is part of a comprehensive package of bills by a statewide Housing Emergency and Lessee Protectors work group, House Democrats HELP.