Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg introduces rent relief program to help tenants in debt

A sign at N. 3rd and Kelker streets.

For many Harrisburg residents, staying on top of rent or mortgage payments during the pandemic hasn’t been easy.

However, the city offered some hope recently as officials announced a rent relief program to help prevent evictions and assist struggling tenants and homeowners.

“If you’ve gotten yourself in a hole and you’re behind on your rent […] this could be an opportunity to use grant money to get caught up,” Mayor Eric Papenfuse said in his weekly Facebook Live event.

Through federal Emergency Shelter Grant COVID (ESG/CV) funds, Harrisburg has a total of $500,000 for residents in need.

The funds can go towards six months’ worth of back rent, future rent payments, mortgage or utility payments, said Lillie Williams, interim director of the Department of Building and Housing Development. Residents can receive up to $5,000 in funds.

She said that the program will also help with teaching residents how to budget and get on track with rent payments.

“This could make a big difference in the city,” said Caleb Cossick of Greater Harrisburg Tenants United, an organization that seeks to educate and advocate for renters.

The Centers for Disease Control’s moratorium on evictions expires on Dec. 31. So, many Harrisburg tenants could face immediate eviction and piles of debt, Cossick explained.

“This could be the difference between the eviction happening and the debt being settled,” he said. “Anything that can be done to eliminate debt is encouraging.”

Cossick said that he and his team are looking into ways of getting word about the program out to residents in need.

All that is needed to qualify for the program is proof of residency in Harrisburg and paperwork that shows payments for rent, mortgage or utilities have not been met.

Residents will need to apply for the rental assistance and landlords can decide to comply by completing a W-9 form. Payments from the city will be made directly to landlords, mortgage companies or utility companies.

Williams said that the program will likely kick off the second or third week of December.

DBHD also plans to roll out a food assistance program to provide people with funds to purchase groceries. Williams said that they are looking to partner with local churches and nonprofits to administer the $300,000 in total funds. This program is expected to launch around the same time as the rental relief program.

For more information on the Department of Building and Housing Development in Harrisburg, visit

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