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PA Governor Tom Wolf signed a new executive order on July 9 extending the state's eviction moratorium to Aug. 31. Photo: governor.pa.gov
PA Governor Tom Wolf signed a new executive order on July 9 extending the state's eviction moratorium to Aug. 31. Photo: governor.pa.gov

Pennsylvania’s eviction moratorium is extended again, but it’s still only temporary

After outcry from public officials and community orgs statewide, Governor Tom Wolf extended his ban on evictions to match Philadelphia.

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The week of July 10 was set to be eviction doomsday for thousands of renters across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as PA Governor Tom Wolf’s eviction moratorium that he ordered back on May 7 was set to expire.

In response, 44 Democratic members of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives and Senate and a 55-member coalition of community orgs from across the state sent a letter to the governor on July 8, urging for its extension.

Their argument was a pending eviction crisis set to begin and leave thousands of Pennsylvanians homeless as coronavirus enters another uptick in the state and country.

The pandemic was the justification Wolf used in his announcement on July 9 of a new executive order extending his eviction and foreclosure moratorium to Aug. 31 statewide.

“I am taking this action to help families know they will have a roof over their heads and a place to live while all of us fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Wolf. “It takes one more burden off of people who are struggling and ensures that families can remain in their homes so they can protect their health and wellbeing.”

In doing so, the governor also matches Philadelphia, who’s First Judicial District extended the city’s closure of landlord-tenant court until Aug. 31. The city has also passed its Emergency Housing Protections Act, offering further housing protections for its renters.

But while advocates statewide are thankful for the governor’s continued moratorium, they know it’s still only a temporary reprieve from eviction.

Wolf’s July 9 order, like his one back on May 7, still requires renters pay their monthly rent on time, which especially impacts those living paycheck to paycheck amid a pandemic that’s kept many at home and out of work throughout its reign. 

“Pennsylvania renters need more than two months of protection, they need true security. A temporary eviction halt is important and welcome, but allowing evictions before Pennsylvanians are back on their feet will only delay the avalanche of evictions, homelessness, and even illness and death that will follow,” said Patty Torres, Organizing Director for Make the Road PA, one of the organizers of the letter sent by 55 community orgs to the governor.

In his announcement of the extension, the governor also reminded of the $150 million he approved for the state to use for rental assistance as part of its CARES Act allocation from the federal government.

The letter from the coalition expressed concern about the slow turnaround for the state’s rental assistance program in relation to the ending of Wolf’s moratorium. 

Applications began on July 6, with the previous ending being just four days later.

Now, Pennsylvanians have time to apply and wait out what could be 30 days for rent relief funding.

However, Spotlight PA reported on July 8, that the state’s rent relief application still lacks a Spanish-language version. With funding doled out on a first-come, first-serve basis, this potentially puts its Latino applicants at a higher risk of getting no help.

Torres said she looks forward to further working with Wolf’s administration to create more “long term protections.”

This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations, focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.

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