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This article is shared with LebTown by content partner Spotlight PA.
By Cynthia Fernandez of Spotlight PA
Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and PennLive/Patriot-News. Sign up for our free weekly newsletter.
HARRISBURG — Evictions and foreclosures in Pennsylvania are on hold through July 10 under an executive order signed by Gov. Tom Wolf.
The state Supreme Court previously placed a moratorium on such proceedings until May 11, as officials shuttered much of Pennsylvania’s economy to prevent the coronavirus from overwhelming hospitals, causing unemployment to skyrocket.
“During the past few weeks, we’ve had great cooperation from Pennsylvanians who understand that staying home is not just about protecting themselves. It’s about protecting everyone in the community,” Wolf said Thursday as he announced the order. “Of course, there are some Pennsylvanians who are eager to comply but are facing the stress of losing their home to eviction or foreclosure.”
In March, Wolf closed all businesses not deemed “life-sustaining” and began placing state residents under stay-at-home orders to contain the virus. Public health experts say such measures were necessary to save lives and keep cases at a manageable level for hospitals. But it’s also caused record unemployment as employees wait to see when workplaces will be allowed to reopen or if companies will close their doors for good.
While Thursday’s announcement buys time for struggling homeowners and renters statewide, it doesn’t provide any cash assistance.
Rent and mortgage bills are still due, Wolf said, and if they go unpaid, tenants and homeowners might accrue back-owed payments.
“If you’re having trouble making payments, I encourage you to contact your mortgage company or your landlord,” Wolf said. “I asked those companies and those landlords to work with homeowners and renters during this difficult time for all of us.”
There are fears that there will be a flood of evictions and foreclosures when proceedings are allowed to resume, with advocates in Philadelphia sounding the alarm earlier this week. In a Thursday statement, city Councilmember Helen Gym said “over 1,700 evictions are already scheduled to be heard in our municipal courts alone.”
Pennsylvania is set to receive nearly $5 billion in federal stimulus dollars that can be used for coronavirus-related issues. Senate Democrats have proposed using more than $1 billion of those funds for housing needs, including direct rent assistance and a Landlord Loss Mitigation Fund.
Wolf, who has discretion over how those dollars are spent, has yet to detail his spending plan.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Thursday that landlords represented by the Pennsylvania Apartment Association have agreed to extend grace periods for late payments, waive late fees, and create payment plans for those experiencing financial hardship during the pandemic. His office has published resources for those struggling financially, in English and Spanish.
Both Shapiro and Wolf urged understanding as officials continue to weigh how quickly they can safely reopen Pennsylvania.
“If you’re a landlord, we understand you’re going through a tough time,” Wolf said. “If you’re a mortgage company, your mortgage holders are going through a tough time. Practice forbearance here. That’s the decent human thing to do.”
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Read all of LebTown’s COVID-19 coverage here.
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