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Much Of Pennsylvania's Rental Assistance Remains Unspent

Kiley Koscinski
90.5 WESA
Thousands of renters and landlords have applied for rent aid, and the end of the month deadline to pay out state assistance is looming. Housing advocates fear millions of dollars will go unspent.

On today's program: Distribution of $150 million in statewide rent relief lags, despite being sorely needed; The Trump campaign is challenging thousands of provisional ballots; and the University of Pittsburgh acquired August Wilson’s archive, opening the door to the playwright’s life for researchers. 

Rental assistance money earmarked, but state has until the end of the month to pay out over three-quarters of the money

(00:00 — 5:32)

The end of November is the deadline for a statewide financial assistance program for renters facing eviction, but, although the money has been earmarked much remains in the state coffers, roughly $130 million

Since the program’s establishment in July, 90.5 WESA reporter Kate Giammarise says less than $20 million of the allotted $150 million has been given to landlords and renters. However, the amount requested indicates more money is needed. 

“Renters and landlords applied for a combined $169 million in aid, and that’s from more than 68,000 renters and more than 37,000 landlords,” says Giammarise. 

Giammarise says the hold up seems to come from “bureaucratic hurdles built into this program,” like following up on incomplete applications, and confirming unemployment or that a tenant is truly overdue on paying rent. 

Some landlords are reluctant to participate, which poses another hurdle because tenants and landlords must apply jointly for the assistance and agree on the exact amount of money owed. 

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency told Giammarise it’s likely there will be unused money at the end of the month, which will be returned to the state. 

The situation concerns housing advocates, especially with COVID-19 cases on the rise and with the CDC eviction moratorium set to expire at the end of the year. 

Additional rental assistance is available via Allegheny Link at 1-866-730-2368, or the Allegheny Link website

President Donald Trump’s campaign is challenging thousands of provisional ballots cast in Pennsylvania
(5:38 — 12:00)

The latest lawsuit brought by President Donald Trump’s campaign over Pennsylvania’s election is due in federal court today in Williamsport. The campaign has initiated at least two dozen cases nationwide, challenging election procedure and contesting thousands and provisional ballots. While most of these lawsuits have been dismissed, withdrawn or decided against, the campaign is still moving challenges forward. 


WITF’s Emily Previti reports provisional ballots are being challenged in several majority-Democrat counties, including in Northampton, Montgomery, Chester and Allegheny. 

The ballots are being challenged for a myriad of reasons: the voter may have signed in the wrong spot, used the wrong date, or failed to seal the ballot envelope properly. 

“They’re doing it to slow the process, more, I think, than to win any legal victories,” says Michael Latner, a political science professor at California State Polytechnic University. 

Jonathan Goldstein, a lawyer representing the Trump campaign in challenging ballots in Delaware and Montgomery Counties, denies the accusation. 

Despite the challenges, judges have ruled against the campaign in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona and Nevada, and election officials continue to assert the election went smoothly and was secure.

August Wilson has come home to the University of Pittsburgh
(12:06 — 18:00)

The University of Pittsburgh Library System acquired the archive of esteemed playwright and former Hill District resident August Wilson

Hillman University librarian and director of the University Library System Kornelia Tancheva tells The Confluence the exclusive acquisition was nearly three years in the making. 

It started, she says, with an introduction to Wilson’s widow and executor of his estate, Constanza Romero.

“For two years we worked with Constanza to build a relationship of trust,” says Tancheva. 

There are more than 450 boxes of material, which the library estimated would take three years to process. However, Tancheva says there have been so many inquiries since the acquisition was announced, they are hoping to reduce the processing time in half. 

The archive contains multiple versions of different scripts, and Tancheva says the iterations of plays will deepen the understanding of Wilson’s plays for thespians staging his work today: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could see the different versions that characters, plots and resolutions before the final version that would inform the current production?”

She also expects the archive will inspire local and international research into the author’s work. 

Wilson, who died in 2005, published most of his plays outside of Pittsburgh, but there’s a reason the city is a mainstay in his work. 

“In nine of [his plays], the setting is in Pittsburgh,” says Tancheva. “However, this is not the most important part: Pittsburgh is the place that formed and colored his perception of the world, his understanding of the plight of African Americans in America.”

Wilson’s influence, she says, is all over the city. “The archive is just one piece of Pittsburgh celebrating the work and legacy of August Wilson.”

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jzenkevich@wesa.fm.
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