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I-Team: Eviction moratorium extended, how it’s impacted the region

I-Team

WILKES-BARRE, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — If you are behind on your rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic. You will not face eviction, at least until October. The Federal Government has extended the eviction moratorium, which expired over the weekend.

This means that thousands of people in our area, who could have faced eviction, now have a two-month reprieve. If you are behind in your rent and can show that COVID-19 is the major reason for it, you may be eligible for what’s called the Emergency Rental Assistance Program or E-R-A-P.

The I-Team spoke with Kathy Possinger, from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, which oversees the program in Pennsylvania.

“We want the message to be clear, not to wait until eviction moratorium is lifted or there is a change in your community. We want to ensure anyone who is eligible for assistance, anybody who meets the income threshold that eviction is an absolute last resort at this time,” said Possinger.

The eviction moratorium is in effect in counties that have a big rate of COVID-19 transmissions, such as Luzerne County.

“Regardless of where they stand in a community with a high transmission or not. We want the message to be clear to those who are facing potential eviction, housing instability, or uncertainty as a result of the pandemic. Act now and reach out to the local administrator. Each county in Pennsylvania is administering E-R-A-P, ” Possinger said.

Pittston City Officials, including Mayor Michael Lombardo, say, they hear questions just about every day regarding the eviction moratorium. From renters, as well as, property owners and landlords.

“I think everyone knows somebody who has been touched by this. So there’s been a level of I think, consistency. But I think it will turn into frustration at some point if this goes longer. We need to work through, this needs to be addressed.”

Shannon Bonacci of the Pittston City Community Development Office, says although they’re small, they try and help everyone they can.

We are a small city, but we do our best to have a program for people who need help. If we don’t have a program that fits, we are constantly referring them to the County of Luzerne,” Bonacci said.

Ken Temborski owns properties in Luzerne and Columbia Counties. He and other landlords tell the I-Team they never want to evict a person, especially now.

Temborski admits, “Well, it’s been tough because for example we have people 6 months 7 months out and the mortgage companies they want their money–the banks want their money and you can’t blame them. I mean when you have 10 -15 clients that have problems with the money that adds up pretty quickly.”

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