Lebanon County residents may be eligible for rent or mortgage assistance through a state financing initiative designed to help them stay in their homes if they were adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The county will be receiving funding in July from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority to help eligible residents pay their rents or mortgages, two local officials told the county commissioners Thursday.

Samuel Ortiz, executive director of the Community Action Partnership and Dan Lyons, program director of the Lebanon Redevelopment Authority, told the county commissioners about funding through the PHFA, which will be administering the money allocated from the federal government through CARES Act rent relief provisions.

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Pennsylvania has earmarked $175 million to be distributed among all 67 counties of the Commonwealth for rent and mortgage relief, and Lebanon County should be receiving about $480,000 of that total to be disbursed to the county by early July, Lyons said.

In the spring of 2019, unemployment in Lebanon County was at 4 percent, while the county’s unemployment numbers rose to 14.2 percent this past April, Ortiz told the commissioners.

Homeowners or renters must document that they had been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and payments may be retroactive to March 1 of 2020.

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“What the program provides is up to six months of assistance,” Ortiz said.

Renters are eligible to receive up to $750 per month, and homeowners, up to $1,000 per month, for six months.

Rental assistance will be administered locally by the Redevelopment Authority, while mortgage assistance is administered directly by PHFA, Lyons said.

It’s difficult to determine how many households have been impacted by the pandemic, Ortiz said, just as it’s difficult to guess how many will ask for assistance due to the number of factors involved, but he believes more than 500 households will apply for financial aid.

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“A landlord can apply on behalf of a tenant, but the tenant must still show all pertinent information,” Ortiz said.

If there is a bigger demand than expected, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency may be able to assist with more funding, Lyons said.

Ortiz and Lyons asked the commissioners for a resolution for the Redevelopment Authority to receive the allocated funds.

While the Redevelopment Authority will be the designated organization to distribute the funds, the Community Action Partnership will collaborate with the Authority by processing applications.

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Starting July 6 and until September 30, county residents can apply for the rent and mortgage funds.

To fill out an application, consumers may go to the PHFA website, which is PHFA.org. Applications will be available to be filled out on June 29, and will be accepted July 6, Lyons said.

“This is very welcome news for those people who need help,” said Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz (D).

In other matters, John Shott, Criminal Justice Advisory Board Planner/Probation, requested permission to apply for a grant from the Commission of Crime and Delinquency and explained that Lebanon County is eligible for $97,676 to be budgeted over the next 24 months.

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The Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Relief grant would be used to support law enforcement officers and respond to needs created by the pandemic.

One of the uses for the funds would be to provide personal protective equipment to law enforcement throughout the county. The commissioners approved the request.

James Donmoyer, executive director of the Lebanon County Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, informed the commissioners that the 2021 budget for the agency would show an increase over this year’s budget of $1.8 million dollars.

The 2021 budget will be $1.99 million, with the biggest driver of the budget being an increase in case management services.

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“We’re able to access state and federal monies and we’re adding new programs through those funds,” Donmoyer said. “We’re spending every dollar we can on our programs.”

Donmoyer also explained contract amendments for the coming year.

One change involved Teen Challenge closing their detox program, but opening up a female-only short-term rehabilitation unit, Donmoyer said.

In other business, Katie Doster, district manager of the Lebanon County Conservation District and Steph Harmon, watershed specialist and Envirothon director, received permission to use Marcellus Grant funds for scholarships of $1,000 each this year to be awarded to four high school seniors.

The money had been used to fund the annual Envirothon, an environmental learning experience for students across the county, but the event was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

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Full Disclosure: The campaigns of Bill Ames, Bob Phillips, and Jo Ellen Litz were advertisers on LebTown during previous election cycles. LebTown does not make editorial decisions based on advertising relationships and advertisers do not receive special editorial treatment. Learn more about advertising with LebTown here.

This post was updated to clarify when applications will open and when they will be accepted.