Still waiting for rental assistance? Here’s what to do.
We heard from one renter who said that they had submitted their application in July, and haven’t yet received funding. What’s the delay, and if I’m waiting, what can I do about it?
If you’re a renter in Philly, and you have been hit particularly hard by the financial strain of the pandemic, you may have been offered a lifeline earlier this year, when the city announced new support to help people pay the rent.
Now in phase two, the city’s COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program offers up to $1,500 per month for as many as six months.
You can still apply through the Philadelphia Housing Development Corp. through Nov. 4, and if you applied for phase one, you can still apply for phase two. If you are eligible, the program will make payments directly to your landlord, and it requires some landlord participation.
We heard from one renter, however, who said that they had submitted their application in July, and haven’t yet received funding. What’s the delay, and if I’m waiting, what can I do about it?
» READ MORE: Your rights as a tenant: Check out our tenants' rights guide.
“We understand the extreme circumstance that many Philadelphians are in, and we are trying to help them as quickly as we can,” says Greg Heller, PHDC senior vice president of community investment. “There are different steps in the process where an application might be stuck.”
Here is what you need to know:
How long should approval take?
It is difficult to say when applicants might see funding go out, Heller says, but typically, the process takes several weeks. Heller says that’s because the program is complex, a lot of people have applied, and other factors.
One big holdup is “the state itself,” Heller says. The PHDC must send every application to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry for review to see whether applicants either applied for unemployment or lost 30% of their income after March 1 — two big eligibility requirements. That review process can take between one and two weeks.
“Once it’s in our hands, we process in a week or so,” Heller says. But even then, there are some things that can cause a lag.
Landlords must do their part
The other major part that is out of the PHDC’s control is your landlord’s participation. Payments from the program are made directly to landlords, which Heller says “adds a step of complexity” because both you and your landlord need to submit information to keep the process rolling.
Of the more than 14,000 applications received for Phase 2 of the program, some 8,885 landlords have not submitted their portion, Heller says. That’s a “nonparticipation” rate of about 37%. And even after approval, landlords must send the PHDC their banking information to receive the payments.
If you want to check why your application is stuck: Contact the PHDC.
“It’s so important for applicants to contact us because so many parts are out of our hands, and the tenant’s hands,” Heller says. Generally, though, you’ll have to reach out to your landlord directly if they haven’t submitted their portion of the application or their banking information.
But it’s not just your landlord that could be causing a delay.
You may be missing information from your application, such as a proof of residency document.
How can you get help?
The first thing you should do, Heller says, is check the status of your application on PhlRentAssist.org using your applicant ID number. There, you’ll be able to see what documents you might be missing on your application, as well as where you can go online to update the necessary information.
If you need further assistance, Heller suggests contacting the program’s help desk via a contact form online, which asks for information such as your first and last name, and application ID number. A staff member will typically respond to your request within 24 to 36 hours, the website notes. Applicants who do not have internet access, meanwhile, can call the Save Your Home Philly Hotline for assistance at 215-334-4663.
“The quickest way is to use the online help desk,” Heller says. “We have a whole staff working on that, and they will get back quickly with a response.”