Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) Helps During Covid

Open Hearth partners to provide rent and utility assistance to those in need 

“I am a business professional and have been working in this great country and never needed help. I can’t thank [Homelessness Prevention Manager] Cory and her team enough for the help and support given during my time of need in my life.” 

– Michael, Open Hearth client 

     Michael is not alone as someone who has been employed their whole life, never needing to access safety net programs to get by until the pandemic hit last year. Covid-19 changed that reality for millions of Americans. Record numbers of layoffs in early 2020 created a new, difficult reality for many individuals and families who faced unprecedented financial challenges. Others became ill or had to care for family members who were ill, requiring an unpaid leave from work.

     At the start of 2021 Open Hearth was approached by Chester County’s Department of Community Development with the opportunity to become a contracted partner for the US Department of the Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). We were awarded a $2.7 million contract in April that was increased to a total of $3.7 million in July. ERAP’s goal is to provide rental and utility assistance to households impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. 99.2 percent of funds go directly towards client rent and utility payments. In a little over five months, Open Hearth has provided over $1.7 million in direct relief. 

     And it’s not just tenants who are expressing their appreciation for the lifeline ERAP provides. ERAP requires the participation of landlords to receive rental assistance. One landlord who owns several units in Phoenixville wrote to us to share his gratitude for the program, and his gratitude for the Open Hearth staff who helped facilitate the application process. 

     As he put it, “I was struggling to survive, my tenants were struggling to pay the rent, and I had to give them breaks—pass on collecting rent sometimes. Everyone was frustrated. I kept on struggling until one day someone told us about Open Hearth and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. I knew that there was hope and that someone out there was willing to help, and this is exactly what happened. I want to take this opportunity to thank our government and each one of you at Open Hearth…for the great job and effort that they put into my case to help my tenants and secure a safe home for them. I was also saved from defaulting on my mortgage. Big thanks to you guys—you made us proud by working hard to improve our society and spread good faith and hope in our hearts.”