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City and county will consider establishing $36 Million COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program

 

February 9, 2021



A proposal to establish an Emergency Rental Assistance Program to assist those impacted financially from the COVID-19 crisis has been introduced to Pittsburgh City Council. 

The City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are partnering with Action Housing and Dollar Energy to establish the emergency program using federal funds in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was signed into law on December 27. The county received $27 million and the city $8.9 million in U.S. Treasury grants under the Act, for assisting households having trouble paying rent and utilities due to the pandemic. 

"In 2020, we were able to help many in our community, but also know that despite our efforts, massive need still exists," said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. "This partnership with the City of Pittsburgh and ACTION will allow us to meet this challenge with a larger pool of funds to help those in need." 

Allegheny County successfully partnered with ACTION Housing in 2020 to provide more than $14 million in rental relief to 3,600 households in the county. The existing partnership and infrastructure along with learned lessons from the first program will lead to a smoother, more expedient process for applicants.

The city and county are working quickly to establish the local rental assistance program, since under the federal law at least 65 percent of the grant funds must be expended by September 30 of this year. The Peduto Administration introduced the city's grant funding to City Council and asking for an expedited council vote by this week. 

"People all around the Pittsburgh region continue to be hurt by COVID-19 in ways that go far beyond the health catastrophe of the pandemic, as they are stuck at home contending with employment uncertainty, educational worries and emotional distress. But if that home itself is in danger, people could lose all hope," Mayor William Peduto said. 

Under federal regulations grant funding can be used for rent, rental arrears, utilities, utility arrears, and other housing expenses resulting from the pandemic for households meeting certain income criteria. The assistance can last up to 12 months plus an additional three months, if necessary, to ensure housing stability. 

Although more details are forthcoming from the federal government that are needed to launch the program, prospective applicants can express interest and sign up to receive program updates at https://covidrentrelief.alleghenycounty.us/. Additional details about the federal grants are available at https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/cares/emergency-rental-assistance-program

20th Anniversary Bicycle Film Festival: Virtual tour lands in Pittsburgh

Despite cinemas being closed, the Bicycle Film Festival lands in Pittsburgh with a curated virtual screening of short films. Available from February 19-28, hosted by Bike Pittsburgh.

Bicycle Film Festival celebrates the bicycle through a virtual festival program, specifically curated for Pittsburgh. The BFF selected short film program offers an international point of view of the cycling movement from around the world and Pittsburgh. The stories appeal to a wide audience from film connoisseurs to avid cyclists and everything in between.

Bicycle Film Festival plays an important role in creating an eco-friendly society and bringing diverse communities together.

BFF Founding Director Brendt Barbur added, "In a year of a global pandemic, economic strife, a contentious political period the bicycle boom worldwide is optimistic news to celebrate. We hope to offer a positive respite from all of this for people."

The program will be available online from anytime from February 19-28, Tickets are available now on http://www.bicyclefilmfestival.com with sliding scale prices at $10, $15, $20.

A portion of all ticket sales benefit Bike Pittsburgh, a registered 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit.

Bicycle Film Festival had plans in motion since the summer of 2019 to celebrate the 20th Anniversary kicking off in New York this past June 2020. The festival expected 20,000 attendees over one week of events. People had bought tickets from round the world to attend.

Then COVID-19 safety mandates forced it to be postponed. BFF is making a comeback by touring the world virtually. BFF has plans to produce over 50 virtual events in the United States and over 100 internationally in Brazil, Ecuador, Canada, Estonia, Italy, Japan, UK and more in the next few months.

 

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