UNDATED (AP) — Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf says he does not have the legal authority to extend Pennsylvania’s moratorium on evictions and foreclosures beyond Aug. 31, meaning that renters will no longer be shielded from losing their homes for failing to pay rent during the pandemic.
In a letter to both legislative chambers, released Tuesday, Wolf says the state’s Emergency Services Code prevents him from taking action himself.
The Democrat called on state lawmakers in the Republican-controlled General Assembly to pass legislation to extend the statewide moratorium, which has been in place for more than five months.
Read the press release from Gov. Tom Wolf:
Harrisburg, PA – With an executive order that protects homeowners and renters from eviction or foreclose expiring Sept. 1, Governor Tom Wolf sent letters to the House and Senate urging the legislature to temporarily extend the existing moratorium and fix defects in Act 24 of 2020, a recently created program that helps renters and homeowners.
The governor re-issued the eviction and moratorium executive order in July; however, the Emergency Services Code does not allow for further relief related to temporary housing.
Act 24 enacted in May provides $150 million for rental assistance and $25 million for mortgage assistance. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency administers the program using CARES Act funds. However, the program is helping fewer people than intended, in part because of a $750 cap on assistance. The governor’s letter includes recommendations from PHFA to address the issues so the program can assist more Pennsylvanians as the commonwealth continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact.
“The General Assembly must act to fix these problems immediately to provide meaningful assistance to this vital sector of the economy and prevent the displacement of Pennsylvanians as we continue to fight the COVID-19 virus,” said Gov. Wolf. “The Legislature should raise the $750 a month payment to at least 130% of HUD limits which would actually assist landlords in higher cost areas, lead to greater participation in the program and increase the number of tenants assisted.
“In addition, the program should allow participants that need assistance to get rental assistance without being in arrears. Pennsylvanians should not have to forego food or medicine in order to remain current on rent and to be eligible for relief.”
The governor proposed additional relief for renters earlier today when he unveiled his fall legislative agenda. The governor is proposing an additional $100 million for the PHFA CARES Rent Relief Program. The assistance will continue to be made available in the form of a grant and funds will be paid directly to landlords or property owners.
The governor is also proposing $100 million to be divided between the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and a new emergency water/wastewater program administered by PENNVEST to assist residential customers who would be subject to termination of service when the current PUC moratorium on terminations is eventually lifted.