Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg’s rent, small business relief programs flooded with applications; city begins to distribute money

Gifted Hands Barber Shop is one of the businesses receiving federal CARES funding.

In November, Harrisburg announced a new rental relief program for residents in response to a national and local rise in evictions due to COVID.

To date, an overwhelming 600 renters have applied for the assistance program, said Interim Director of the Department of Building and Housing Development Lillie Williams on Mayor Eric Papenfuse’s Facebook Live conversation today.

“This is a great example of funding being disbursed in a way that is making an impact,” Papenfuse said.

Williams said that they are processing the first 200 applications and have sent out $122,000 of the $500,000 in federal Emergency Shelter Grant COVID (ESG/CV) funds. The average amount each renter is receiving is $2,000 to $5,000, she said, the cap being $5,000 each.

“Landlords have been very receptive and residents also have been,” Williams said.

The Department of Building and Housing Development has also been delegating funds to those in need of utility assistance. So far, they have awarded $19,000 for residents behind on those payments.

“It’s been very helpful,” said Sean Maurer, a landlord in Harrisburg. “The moratorium can put a lot of pressure on, especially on small landlords.”

He said that the funding gives him greater ability to work with other tenants who may be struggling to pay rent, as well.

Williams said that her office is processing checks every two weeks and that applicants can expect to hear from them by Jan. 29. For those who do not receive funds, Williams has hopeful news.

“I do believe there will be a second round,” she said.

She also suggested that residents in need contact the HELP Ministries, which is part of Christian Churches United of the Tri-County Area.

Additionally, around the same time that the rent relief program rolled out, the city announced another round of funding for small businesses in Harrisburg.

The “Neighborhood Business Stabilization Grant” directs funds to businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Money is drawn from federal CARES funding, as well, and is administered in partnership with the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and CREDC.

Businesses could apply for up to $10,000 for expenses such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, payroll, real estate tax and vendor invoices.

Within the first five days after opening the portal on Dec. 1, the Chamber already had received 136 applications, forcing them to close the application window early, said the Chamber’s Vice President of Economic Development Melissa Stone.

They are still working to comb through applications, Stone said. They have awarded 16 grants so far.

Michael Payne, owner of Harrisburg’s Gifted Hands Barber Studio, was one of the businesses awarded funds.

“If we didn’t get the support, we would be closing,” Payne said. “I thank the city for doing what they are doing to help out.”

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