EAST STROUDSBURG, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — As Pennsylvania continues to reopen, many of its residents are still without an income due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are struggling to pay rent. The Salvation Army is now stepping in to help them keep a roof over their head.
Workers tell Eyewitness News that it’s easier to keep someone in their home rather than help them find a place to live after they are already homeless. While an executive order signed by Governor Tom Wolf is currently protecting Pennsylvanians from foreclosures and evictions, it is set to expire on July 10th. The Rental Assistance Program is now hoping to give families a helping hand.
“When landlords can actually, you know, start eviction processes. Like, it is a major concern,” Heather Cleveland, a social service case manager at East Stroudsburg Salvation Army said.
In just one month, Cleveland has approved 14 families for the program. By the end of the week, they could only have enough federal grant money left to help another 18 families.
Cleveland is also worried that with the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits slated to end July 31st, more people will need the Salvation Army’s help.
“If we make it to August, I will be surprised,” she said.
If approved by the program, each family can receive a maximum $1200 one-time grant. It can be used to pay rent, past due balances or both but the money is given directly to the landlord, not the tenant.
“Our staff have been working with these clients and encouraging them: don’t put this off,” Major Gilbert Parkhurst said.
Parkhurst says Monroe County’s biggest employers are resorts and small businesses. Even though they have now all been allowed to reopen, not all employees are being called back.
“It comes from a lot of different areas,” Gilbert said. “We found a lot of the small businesses, you know, that have been closed, some of them are not reopening right now. They are not able to.”
Along with the rental assistance program, the Salvation Army has started to receive calls for fuel assistance.
Lillian Herman, 72, of Saylorsburg was among them.
“When you are my age, with very little money, asking for help is better than stealing what you need. People shouldn’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul,” she said.
The East Stroudsburg Salvation Army relies on federal, state and private funding. If you would like to donate, click here.