Court Evictions Decision Puts Spotlight on Rent Relief

NORRISTOWN PA – A U.S. Supreme Court decision made late Thursday (Aug. 26, 2021) night overturned a federal Centers for Disease Control extension of its earlier temporary ban against evicting renters whose bills to landlords remain unpaid. The ruling seems likely to have tenants who face demands to pay-up-or-leave looking for help from sources like Montgomery County’s Rent and Utility Relief Program.

The county Board of Commissioners in March authorized about $55 million in funding to help renters and landlords affected by COVID-19. Its program, administered by Your Way Home, allows eligible households to receive up to 12 months of assistance for rent and utility bills dating back to March 13, 2020. Assistance can be for past due rent and utility payments, or future rent payments.

The Your Way Home web portal for program assistance was active as of Friday (Aug. 27) morning at 7 a.m.

“Through this program we can provide housing stability to hundreds of low and moderate-income Montgomery County residents at risk of eviction and homelessness,” commissioners’ Vice Chair Kenneth E. Lawrence Jr. said in March.

The court’s 8-page majority opinion was opposed by its three liberal justices, a New York Times article noted. It said the CDC had exceeded its authority in extending the ban, and further specified that only Congress can make such a decision by legislation. One House representative on Thursday claimed more than 11 million households face “violent eviction in the middle of a deadly global pandemic” as a result.

On the other hand, it also reported, landlords charge the eviction ban has “saddled them with billions of dollars in debt.”

Applying for county assistance

Eligibility requirements for the county program include:

  • Household occupants must reside in Montgomery County at the time of application, and
  • One or more individuals in the household has qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the COVID-19 pandemic, and
  • The household can demonstrate a risk of homelessness or housing instability, and
  • Household must be at or below 80 percent of what is known as “area median income” at the time of application.

Depending on family sizes, the 80-percent level of area media income ranges from $52,900 for one person to $99,800 for seven people. Income eligibility is based on average gross income during the 30 days preceding the time of assistance. Income includes earned income, child support, welfare benefits, Social Security Income, Social Security Disability Income, unemployment income, workman’s compensation, and any pension, investments, or 401K funds.

Other requirements must be satisfied, and documentation also is needed.

To apply, residents should call 2-1-1 or text their zip code to 898-211. Applications can be submitted over the phone, in person, or e-mailed.

Photo by the Cincy Project via Flickr, modified by The Post using a filter, and used under a Creative Commons license