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NORRISTOWN — Low- to moderate-income Montgomery County renters who have been hurt financially during the COVID-19 outbreak can apply for rental assistance under a statewide program that kicked off on Monday.

The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services has partnered with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) to provide rent relief program payments of up to $750 per month to low and moderate-income renters financially impacted by the economic slowdown during the pandemic. The application process opened on Monday.

“More than 13,000 of our renters experience extreme cost burden with rent representing more than 50% of their income at any given time,” county Commissioners Chairwoman Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh said on Monday. “We hope to help as many people as possible to stay safe and healthy in their homes during the pandemic by providing much needed economic relief.”

Commissioner Kenneth E. Lawrence Jr. said funding for the relief program is provided by the PHFA through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which has portioned at least $150 million for rent relief.

The CARES Act, passed in March, provided $3.9 billion for Pennsylvania and is intended to help people hurt economically during the pandemic. In late May, state legislators directed $175 million of the CARES dollars to PHFA to provide assistance for struggling renters and homeowners. The portion for rent assistance is at least $150 million.

PHFA has identified organizations in all 67 counties to process the large number of rent relief applications anticipated. Applications can be accessed by visiting www.phfa.org/pacares

Lawrence said PHFA's call center is available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist the public and help with questions about the CARES Rent Relief Program. The toll-free number is 1-855-U-Are-Home (827-3466). Callers should listen for the prompt mentioning CARES assistance for renters, Lawrence said.

Applicants must be county residents. Eligible renters include those who became unemployed after March 1 or had their annual household income reduced by 30% or more due to reduced work hours and wages related to COVID-19.

The relief funds may only be used to cover rent incurred during a six month period occurring between March 1 and Dec. 30, 2020, and the maximum monthly assistance is $750, officials said.

Renters who applied for Pennsylvania unemployment assistance must have done so after March 1. To qualify, renters’ income before March 1 must be no more than 100% of the area median income or $96,600 for a family of four, according to county officials.

For more information about the rent relief program and how to apply, visit www.montcopa.org/HHS or talk with a representative of the Montgomery County Office of Community Connections Navicates by calling 610-278-3929.

Community Connections Navicates are skilled human service professionals who are knowledgeable about local, county and state resources. Residents can work with the same Navicate during their interactions with Community Connections, allowing the Navicate to serve as both a navigator of the system and as an advocate for the individual throughout the process. The service is free of charge to any county resident.

Additionally, county residents in need of emergency mortgage assistance can apply directly to the PHFA by visiting www.phfa.org/pacares/mortgage.aspx

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