CHICAGO, Ill. - Gov. JB Pritzker has launched "the largest housing stability program in the nation" to help many Illinoisans struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor says over $300 million will help approximately 40,000 households by the end of the year. The funds are split evenly between assistance for rent and mortgage payments for individuals who lost jobs or significant income due to COVID-19.
Applications are now available for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, but Pritzker says people should act quickly as the money will run out. Those approved for the program will receive a one-time grant of $5,000 to cover missed payments starting in March and prepayments through December. The governor emphasized this could help 30,000 tenants in need.
"No one has carried a burden larger than those least able to weather a financial hardship," Pritzker said Monday. "Every action that we take to pave our way through this crisis and beyond must be done with a special focus on those who have too often been left out and left behind."
Applicants will have to meet set requirements in order to be approved for the assistance. For instance, their household income before March 1 must be at or below 80% of the area's median income. IHDA Executive Director Kristin Faust says individuals can find out if they qualify as they fill out the first portion of the application.
"An adult member of your house has to have lost income due to COVID after March 1," Faust explained. "You also have to have an unpaid rent balance that began on our after March 1."
The application process for the Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program will launch on August 24. The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) says approved applicants will receive up to $15,000 paid directly to their mortgage servicer. Funds will cover a homeowner's past due or forbearance balance and mortgage payments through December 30.
Eligible applicants for the mortgage program cannot make above 120% of the average income for the area. The homeowner's mortgage must be current as of February 29 and an adult in the home must have lost income during the pandemic.
However, leaders know the state doesn't have the capacity to fulfill everyone's financial needs. Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) argues the federal government has to pass a new aid package to help more families.
"The economic impact of the pandemic is real, and it is suffocating working-class families in this state," Castro said. "We have done all that we can to help, but we are too feeling the pressure and have exhausted our available resources."
Funding for the state's rent and mortgage assistance programs came from the CARES Act passed in March. Illinois received $3.5 billion in relief for families and businesses. State lawmakers set aside a portion of that funding to help renters and homeowners.