Councilman Wilson lists some of the options available to residents who are struggling to pay their rent and utility bills during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo: Office of Councilman Wilson
During the pandemic, it is vital from a public health perspective that we help those facing economic hardship to keep a roof over their head. Losing your home because you cannot afford to pay rent due to job loss or cut hours is both unfair and has a tremendous negative impact on our families and our communities.
If you need assistance with paying your rent and utilities during this pandemic, please visit the Allegheny County Rent Relief Program website. Please share your contact information to get notified when this program goes into action this March. Applications for relief can also be submitted by eligible landlords on behalf of their renters. This program is funded by federal dollars from the COVID-19 relief bill signed into law in December – the City is contributing $8.9 million and Allegheny County is chipping in $27 million for this purpose. Money from this program can go toward paying rent, utilities, and other housing expenses related to the pandemic. Eligibility criteria for this money includes a risk of homelessness or housing instability, a financial hit from the pandemic, and a household income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI). This help could last up to 15 months with the goal of encouraging renters’ housing stability. At the end of January, Pittsburgh City Council also voted to allocate another $2 million to the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Housing Stabilization Program to assist renters. If you need additional help, please contact United Way by dialing 211 or texting your zip code to 898-211 to get assistance through this program with your rent, utilities, and legal fees related to an eviction proceeding.
At the federal level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a moratorium on evictions that are in effect nationwide until March 31, 2021. If you are a renter who has received an eviction notice from your landlord, provide them with a signed copy of the CDC declaration to stop the eviction. Signing this declaration allows you to take advantage of the federal government’s ban on rental evictions until the end of March so you and your loved ones can stay in your home during this pandemic. Please understand that the CDC’s eviction moratorium only applies to you if you cannot afford to pay your rent because you have lost your job or had your hours cut due to the pandemic. It does not ban evictions if the renter is engaging in criminal activity on the premises, threatening the health or safety of other residents, damaging property or violating the building code, or violating any other contractual obligations to the landlord.
The purpose of the CDC’s eviction moratorium is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by facilitating self-isolation by people who become ill or are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to an underlying medical condition. Implementing the moratorium also allows local authorities like the Allegheny County Department of Public Health to more easily issue stay-at-home and social distancing orders. Finally, strengthening housing stability helps protect public health because homelessness increases the likelihood of residents living in close quarters in homeless shelters or doubling up with friends and family, which puts everyone at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
COUNCILMAN, DISTRICT 1