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Pittsburgh URA Approves Help For People Losing Income During Coronavirus Pandemic

Heather McClain
90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority and its board on Thursday passed measures to support people and businesses suffering financially because of the coronavirus. A new program that aims to keep people in their homes was among the approvals.

The URA board approved $300,000 for The COVID-19 Fund. The money comes from the Housing Opportunity Fund and is modeled after the existing Housing Stabilization Program. The new program will be managed by the Urban League of Pittsburgh and help families pay utilities and rent to reduce risk of eviction.

Applicants will have to provide documentation of losing hours or their job altogether; people who are self-employed will need to demonstrate loss of contracted work. The grants are limited to $3,000 per household.

“This is obviously a really critical action and sorely needed,” said Sam Williamson, URA board chair, commending URA staff and the Housing Opportunity Fund’s advisory board for moving this forward so quickly. He opened the electronically-convened meeting by acknowledging the “unprecedented and scary times” facing the region and the world.

Board member and Pittsburgh City Councilor Daniel Lavelle asked that the program be expanded to include homeowners.

“There are absolutely those … that will be hit hard by this and potentially be missing mortgage payments.”

URA Executive Director Greg Flisram said they know this isn’t a lot of money.

“At $3,000 [per household] … we’re only going to be able to help 100 people,” he said. But he called the fund “seed money,” and added that they hope to use it to unlock other funding.

In response to the pandemic, the URA also froze all loan payments for its small business borrowers for the month of April.

The agency will also offer emergency loans up to $15,000 for existing borrowers and for up to 30 other small businesses. The loans will be offered at 0 percent interest, with no payment for the first six months.

Information about those loans and other URA programs has been centralized on a new COVID-19 webpage.

There the agency writes, “We realize this pandemic will deeply challenge the lives of our clients, communities and economy, and will do everything we can to help our neighbors.”