Millions of dollars are to be distributed to Huntingdon County residents in need of emergency housing assistance.
March’s federal COVID-19 Relief Bill, also known as the American Rescue Plan, distributed $1.9 trillion across the country in order to downplay the long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The $1,400 stimulus checks most Americans received three weeks ago were a part of that plan.
About $27 billion of that bill was also designated to be used for emergency rental assistance which means it could be used for rent, housing and utility services. Huntingdon County will receive about $2.9 million of that funding through the Pennsylvania Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
Huntingdon’s Center for Community Action (CCA) is in charge of distributing that funding within Huntingdon County. To be eligible, residents must have experienced financial hardship due to the coronavirus, be able to demonstrate a risk of homelessness, and make less than 80% of the median income for Huntingdon County. In Huntingdon County, the maximum annual income for a one-person household to qualify would be $36,350.
According to CCA executive director Wendy Melius about 11 households have been assisted by the program since it began about a month ago. About $35,000 of the funding was used to help those residents, a small amount of the potential millions that could be paid to landlords and utility companies in the coming weeks as more applications are processed.
Melius says that it can take several weeks for applications and payments to be processed.
“It all depends on the timing of the application,” said Melius, “but once we review the application we can probably get the funding out to the landlord or the utility company within a week or two. But we make that communication with the landlord and/or the utility company to let them know that we are working with the participant and we will be making the funding available once we’re approved — to let them know we’re working on it.”
Melius says the funds can be used to pay money owed to landlords or utility companies dating as far back as March 2020, and that the payments are made by CCA directly to the owed parties.
According to CCA director of human services Tiffany Jones, more applications are streaming in steadily.
“We have a lot that are pending. I would say well over 15 households that we’re working with right now, and just trying to get all of the documentation for, and they’re coming in daily,” said Jones.
It’s hard to measure the impact of this funding until it’s distributed. There’s currently no data on the number of residents that may be eligible in the region. Jones says that having this money available is a huge boost to those who were previously ineligible for similar programs.
“It’s very important right now… A lot of our funding sources aren’t able to assist because of the moratorium being in place. This funding we’re able to utilize right now with the moratorium so it’s very unique and it’s easier to assist people with,” said Jones.
Currently, CCA is required to have 65% of its funding expended by July 31, but Jones says that they are trying to help those in need as quickly as possible.
“We’re working really quickly to try to get this money spent as fast as we can, so nothing gets sent back,” said Jones.
Anyone who thinks they might be eligible can contact CCA’s Huntingdon office at: (814)643-4202, or toll-free at 1-800-323-9997. Applications can also be completed at www.compass.state.pa.us.
Haldan can be reached at email@example.com.