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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: August 26, 2020 04:21 PM
From: Senator Art Haywood and Sen. Vincent J. Hughes, Sen. Katie J. Muth
To: All Senate members
Subject: CARES Act Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program Fixes
In the near future, we will introduce legislation to make necessary changes to the Mortgage and Rental Assistance Grant Program established though the CARES Act so the program works as it’s intended.
The Governor’s Executive Order to suspend evictions and foreclosures expires 31 August 2020. The best way we can keep people in their homes past 31 August is to ensure the programs we created to keep people in their homes under the CARES Act are functioning properly. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) reports there are several issues causing the $175 million for program to be underutilized. For example, a $750/month cap on payments to landlords and a $1000/month cap on payments to lenders are not enough for many to forgive the outstanding balances that remain. If this money is not spent by the end of the calendar year for its intended purpose, we might have to give it back to the federal government. Without these changes, we will leave our neighbors out on the cold.
PHFA and our state’s network of housing advocates are working on a comprehensive solution, including the following changes:
  • Allowing a small portion of the CARES Act funds (no more than 5%) to be used by counties to administer the program.
  • Linking maximum rental and mortgage assistance to other widely-established industry standards:
    • Basing maximum rental assistance on 130% of the HUD Fair Market Rent of a two-bedroom unit in the area (ranging from $928/month to $1,682/month).
    • Basing maximum mortgage assistance on the median monthly owner costs per the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (up to $1500/month).
  • Allows landlords and mortgage holders to participate even if the tenant or homeowner hasn’t been in arrears for 30 days.
  • Eliminates the requirement that any remaining obligation for past due rent waived, instead says no fees or penalties on it may be imposed.
  • Replacing the requirement to waive remaining rent or mortgage payments in order to participate in the program with an option either to forgive the remaining payments in exchange for 25% of the remaining balance or offer a repayment plan, that may not include late fees or interest, which for renters must be at least 12 months long on 12-month or month-to-month leases.
  • Extends the application deadline to 31 October 2020. 

Please join me in co-sponsoring this critical legislation for our neighbors across the Commonwealth. 

Introduced as SB1290