SHARON – Armed with a $1.3 million federal COVID-19 grant, Community Action Partnership of Mercer County will provide housing assistance to renters affected by the pandemic.

The grant is part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act regulation passed in March by the federal government. The state Housing Finance Agency oversees the program in Pennsylvania.

Community Action Partnership is accepting applications at its offices, 75 S. Dock St, Sharon, until Sept. 30. The aid is open to renters who have lost at least 30 percent of their incomes, including those who have lost their jobs.

Those who qualify can receive up to six months in rent.

Wilma Torres, the partnership’s chief executive officer, said it is important for renters to apply for the aid as soon as possible. The state government has imposed a moratorium on evictions due to the pandemic’s economic impacts. But

the order expires Aug. 31, which means evictions can resume after that date.

Also, the grant is what Torres called revolving funding, which means that if local residents don’t use the money, the state can claim it and redistribute it to counties that need it — or, if the county uses its funding quickly, dollars from other places in the state could be transferred to Mercer County.

“It’s important that anyone who is behind on their rent apply,” Torres said. “I think some people may believe that because of the moratorium, they shouldn’t apply, but they definitely should apply because once the moratorium is lifted, the landlord can file for eviction.”

So far, Community Action Partnership has received 19 applications, but none of them have included all of the required documents, Torres said.

“Nineteen applications is a start,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of phone calls for applications and people have come by and picked up applications.” Those applying for rental assistance can visit online and download two applications — one for the tenant, one for the landlord. After that, the application process calls for a copy of the rental lease, with current income records dating to January, along with proof of residency, such as a utility bill.

The incomplete applications are placed in “pending” status.

Community Action Partnership is sending a list of necessary paperwork to those applicants and their landlords, who have 30 days to finish the applications.

“The benefit is for the tenant so that they don’t become evicted and become homeless,” Torres said.

Once Community Action Partnership receives all the required documentation, the agency determines, based on approval criteria, whether the application qualifies for aid.

When it approves an application Community Action Partnership sends a check to the landlord, which stops any eviction action for a maximum of 60 days.

“Once the landlord receives the check, the landlord cannot evict the tenant within 60 days,” Torres said.

For more information, contact Reenie Whiteside at Community Action Partnership, 724-342-6222 ext. 18.