HARRISBURG, PA — Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead is reminding Pennsylvanians of programs available to help with essential needs like housing, health care, food access, and utility payments as families begin to receive advanced Child Tax Credit payments from the federal government.
“Advanced Child Tax Credit payments coming from the federal government represent a historic investment in working families in Pennsylvania and around the country – one that has the opportunity to make a transformative difference in everyday circumstances for parents and children,” said Acting Secretary Snead. “While these payments will be a reprieve when many are still struggling from the pandemic and economic crisis, they are not the only help available. Pennsylvania has support available for rental and utility assistance, health care, food needs and others, and I strongly encourage all families who are struggling to make ends meet consider these resources as well to help your family heal and move forward from this extended crisis.”
Households may be eligible for up to 18 months of assistance to cover past-due or future rental and/or utility payments through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). The amount of a household’s monthly rent or utility bills does not preclude eligibility, but the amount of ERAP assistance provided to a household is determined by program administrators at the county level. Assistance can be provided to a tenant for future rental payments, and for unpaid rental or utility arrears that were accrued on or after March 13, 2020 on a residential rental property. Counties may choose to provide additional assistance to eligible households if funds remain available.
Either tenants or landlords can apply for this assistance, but a tenant does not need a landlord’s permission to apply and use this assistance. This program is an opportunity to help ease circumstances for both parties, so landlords and tenants are strongly encouraged to work cooperatively to secure this stabilizing assistance.
To qualify for assistance, a household must be responsible to pay rent on a residential property and meet each of the following criteria:
- One or more people within the household has qualified for unemployment benefits, had a decrease in income, had increased household costs, or experienced other financial hardship during or due directly or indirectly to the COVID-19 pandemic; AND
- One or more individuals in the household can show a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; AND
- The household has an income at or below 80 percent of area median income, which varies by county. Income limits by county are available on the DHS website. Resources (like bank accounts and cars) are not relevant to ERAP eligibility.
Applicants will need to provide the following information: head of household’s personal information; income information for all household members 18 and older; rental lease and amount owed; landlord’s name and contact information. If applying for utility assistance, applicants must provide utility expenses and utility provider information.
About two-thirds of Pennsylvania counties have partnered with DHS to make ERAP applications available to their residents online at www.compass.state.pa.us. The remaining counties opted to accept applications from county residents through their own application process. Residents of all counties can visit COMPASS for information on how to apply for ERAP, including residents of counties that have developed their own process. If a person tries to apply through COMPASS but indicates that they reside in one of the 22 counties with its own application, they will be provided with information about how to apply, including a link to the county application if available.
DHS also administers programs that facilitate access to other essential needs like health care coverage, food and groceries, and cash assistance for families. Pennsylvanians can apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and other public assistance programs online at www.compass.state.pa.us. Those who prefer to submit a paper application can print from the website, pick one up at a County Assistance Office (CAO), or request an application by phone at 1-800-692-7462 and mail it or drop it off to their local CAO. You do not need to know your own eligibility in order to apply.
“We have endured nearly a year and a half of great loss and tremendous uncertainty. Circumstances are improving, but no one has to go at this alone. Please apply for assistance and let us help provide some security as we continue to navigate our recovery from COVID-19,” said Acting Secretary Snead.
For more information on Child Tax Credits, visit https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/advance-child-tax-credit-payments-in-2021.
For more information about DHS and public assistance programs available in Pennsylvania, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.
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