By Benjamin Wolf, Contributing Editor
Between the worsening COVID-19 pandemic, police brutality and systemic racism, a critical presidential election, and, lest we forget, UFOs, every day feels a little more uncertain than the last. If you are one of the millions of Americans facing the intertwined threats of joblessness and eviction this sentiment is especially poignant.
While conversations regarding the next COVID-19 economic relief package are ongoing in Congress, protections against eviction and increased unemployment benefits from April’s CARES Act are already expired as of August 1st. In addition to this, the recent barrage of executive orders signed by President Trump did not halt evictions, while the lowered supplemental unemployment benefit of $400 per week will terminate in early December. For those who may be affected by the COVID housing crisis, we have coordinated a set of local and national resources that may be able to offer assistance in these difficult times.
Eviction and Housing Assistance:
- The City of Philadelphia’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program is accepting applications for its second phase of operations. The program offers income based financial assistance by paying rent for Philadelphians who have lost their source of income due to COVID-19. You can also access resources from the City of Philadelphia through this helpful brochure.
- Save Your Home Philly offers free legal assistance to those struggling to pay their mortgage or who are in danger of going into forbearance on their homes. If you are in need of immediate help, you can reach them by dialing their hotline at 215-334-HOME (4663) between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
- Community Legal Services of Philadelphia has been providing free civil legal assistance to low income Philadelphians since 1966. The organization is divided into different legal units focusing on housing and employment cases, among many others. They are accepting new clients by phone at (215) 981-3700.
- Phillytenant.org is one of the city’s preeminent organizations offering information, resources, legal help, and more on housing issues in Philadelphia. For immediate help they can be reached through the Philly Tenant Hotline at 267-443-2500.
- The Utility Emergency Services Fund (UESF) works with PECO, Philadelphia Gas Works, and the Philadelphia Water Department to offer financial assistance and emergency utility relief to people facing housing crises. Programs run by the UESF range from assisting Veterans, those with disabilities, and sheltered families among many others.
- Local Housing Solutions is a national non-profit organization fighting to implement fair housing policies across the country. They currently offer information and tools to help people plan for potential housing disaster as a result of COVID-19, as well as a breakdown of each state’s response to the problem.
- Just Shelter works to spread information and resources from community-based housing organizations to address the lack affordable housing in the United States. You can access a state-by-state database of local resources offering housing relief on their website.
- The Federal government has created a webpage filled with information on locating affordable housing, temporary rental relief, and resources that are age and geographic specific.
Employment Benefits and Assistance:
- The United Way of Pennsylvania has a plethora of information on COVID-19 relief on their website ranging from the location of testing sites, food banks, and mental healthcare facilities. To access resources related to employment assistance click here.
- Local News sources such as the Philadelphia Tribune and BILLYPENN have outlined high level guides to traversing the world of financial aid packages and unemployment benefits for workers who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. This includes information on what benefits are available, whether you are eligible to receive them, and how to successfully file for said benefits.
- Pennsylvania CareerLink: Philadelphia helps job seekers in the Philadelphia area improve their prospects of finding employment by offering assistance with resume writing, connecting with career advisers, and much more via their Virtual Resource Center. Their offices are currently closed but you can still contact them by phone at 1-833-750-5627, or email at email@example.com.
- The Philadelphia Unemployment Project and Unemployment Information Center is a locally based organization offering assistance to Philadelphians who have been forced to go without work. Visitors to their website are able to provide detailed information on their specific situation, after which they can expect a response by phone or email intended to address the issues they are facing.
- Philadelphia Legal Assistance has free resources available for people seeking assistance with unemployment compensation, benefits, and self-help resources to navigate the ongoing financial crisis.
- The National Employment Law Project, a worker’s rights organization based in New York, promotes policies to support American workers. They’ve made resources for unemployed and frontline workers available on their website that focus on eligibility for unemployment benefits, help for immigrant workers, independent contractors, and lists of what legal aid is available on a state by state basis.
- The hospitality and event planning industries have taken an especially hard hit over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of the enforcement of strict social distancing policies. Plate magazine, a food focused publication for restaurateurs and chefs, offers a list of resources to help people in the hospitality space who’ve lost their jobs due to COVID-19 get back on their feet. This includes financial assistance, where to find free or discounted food, and assistance in finding new employment.
- The Federal government’s response to the pandemic led to the CARES Act. For anyone who is unclear on how they can benefit from the act, or what benefit options they have, The American Action forum offers a detailed overview on their website here.
- Locate food banks in your state through Feeding America’s website at this link: https://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank
- Information on unemployment insurance and legal requirements related to filing for unemployment in your state is available here: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/unemployment-insurance
- Information on housing assistance available in your state can be accessed here: https://www.hud.gov/topics/rental_assistance/local
- If your health insurance was linked to your employment and you have recently lost your job, you may need to explore government-based options. Information on what may be available can be accessed here: https://www.healthcare.gov/have-job-based-coverage/if-you-lose-job-based-coverage/
- Added on 3/10/2021– If you’re having trouble paying your credit card bills, here is a list of credit card issuers that are helping consumers sign up for relief programs. https://www.bankrate.com/finance/credit-cards/issuer-assistance-programs-amid-coronavirus-fears/