Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday extended a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions by another two months, saying residents should not have to worry about losing their homes during the pandemic.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court first suspended evictions in March, but its order is set to expire Monday. Wolf signed an executive order Thursday extending the moratorium to July 10.
“No one should have to worry about losing their home during this health emergency,” Wolf said at a video news conference. “This executive order takes one more burden off people who are struggling and gives them more time to get back on their feet.”
Wolf noted that renters and homeowners are still required to make monthly payments.
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, meanwhile, has stopped foreclosures and evictions and is allowing homeowners with a PHFA mortgage to pause payments if they are having financial trouble because of the virus outbreak.
Marlynn Orlando, the CEO of the Pennsylvania Apartment Association, said her organization typically dislikes government mandates but understands why Wolf issued the order.
Her organization had already been recommending to its members — mostly larger apartment complex owners — that they hold off on evictions until at least July 15, a date set by the federal emergency relief bill for property owners with Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae-backed mortgages who wanted to postpone mortgage payments.
In other coronavirus-related developments:
The Pennsylvania Department of Health said Thursday that 310 more people with COVID-19 have died, raising the statewide death toll to 4,316.
The deaths took place over the past several weeks. The Health Department has been reconciling its records with data provided by hospitals, health care systems, municipal health departments and long-term care centers.
Residents of nursing homes and personal care homes account for nearly 70% of the overall death toll.
Health officials reported 1,070 additional people have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, the first time new infections have topped 1,000 since Saturday. To date, the virus has been confirmed in about 53,000 people in Pennsylvania.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. There is no data on how many people have recovered.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
Self-employed people, gig workers and others not normally eligible for unemployment compensation were able to start filing backdated claims Thursday under a new federal benefits program being administered by the state.
Since March 15, more than 174,000 people have applied to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which is being administered by the state’s unemployment compensation office. The state began accepting applications April 18 but wasn’t able to pay benefits while it built out the system.
Work on the system was completed Thursday morning, and it is now fully operational, the Department of Labor & Industry said. Eligible workers should receive their initial payments within a week of filing their claims.
A record 1.7 million Pennsylvanians have filed for regular unemployment compensation since mid-March as the pandemic, and the state’s efforts to contain it, caused economic devastation.
MEAT PLANT LAWSUIT
The family of a meat processing plant worker who died of COVID-19 has sued the company and several affiliates, saying his death was the result of negligence in responding to the epidemic.
The wrongful death lawsuit filed in Philadelphia on Thursday concerns Enock Benjamin, who was a union shop steward at the JBS beef processing plant in Souderton, the largest facility of its kind east of Chicago.
It says he died of respiratory failure related to COVID-19 on April 3.
The lawsuit claims JBS was slow to provide personal protective equipment or to arrange its more than 1,000 workers far enough apart to avoid contagion.
Messages seeking comment were left at the plant and with a JBS spokesman.