State to give $5,000 grants for struggling renters

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Homeowners are eligible for $15,000 grants

Crusader Staff Report

Tenants who are struggling to pay their rent can apply for a $5,000 grant through a $300 million program that is aimed to help residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

The program is funded by the federal CARES Act and offers rental assistance to some 30,000 renters in Illinois. Struggling homeowners are eligible to receive up to $15,000 in grants. The program can benefit as many as 15,000 homeowners.

Those seeking mortgage assistance must have a past-due balance or forbearance balance that began on or after March 1 due to loss of income related to COVID-19. The home must be a primary residence, and the mortgage balance must be $425,000 or less and in a first lien/mortgage position. Reverse mortgages do not qualify.

Both programs also have household income limitations.

The application portal opened at 9 a.m. Monday and will remain available until August 21, one day before the state’s eviction moratorium is scheduled to expire. An actual link to apply can be found online at era.ihda.org or by searching for Rental Housing – IDHA.

Officials at the Illinois Housing Development Authority, which administers the grants, are trying to prevent an eviction and foreclosure crisis as tenants fall behind in paying their monthly rent while the economy continues to decline during the pandemic.

To apply for the $5,000 and $15,000 mortgage grants, tenants should go to era.ihda.org. Applicants must first upload a photo of their identification and provide the name and email address of their landlord, who will then be allowed to upload a series of documents. The grants can be used to cover rent payments between March and December.

IDHA expects to start wiring the first grant checks to landlords by August 28. Officials aim to have all the payments by the end of September.

Concerns of a housing crisis grew last month when a federal moratorium on evictions expired. The state’s eviction moratorium is set to expire August 22. After that date, landlords can move forward with evicting tenants for nonpayment.

Meanwhile, the number of jobless claims continues to rise in Illinois. In June, Illinois had the third highest rent deferrals, behind Ohio and Maryland, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau survey data by online lending marketplace Lending Tree.

Statewide, 24 percent of Illinois renters deferred or did not pay rent for July, according to the bureau’s July 16-21 survey. Nationally, 21.3 percent deferred or did not pay July rent.

Residents can also apply for rental assistance through a separate, $20 million Cook County program. Struggling households are eligible to receive up to $4,500 each.

Applications for the Cook County grants will be accepted through August 18. Recipients will be picked through a lottery system, though 25 percent of the participants will be specifically chosen because they live in areas in the county that were hardest hit by COVID-19 cases.

The county will give the money directly to landlords.

To apply for the Cook County COVID-19 Recovery Rental Assistance program, go to cookcountyil.gov/recovery.

ILLINOIS EXTENDS UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS BY 20 WEEKS

Last week, the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced 20 weeks of state extended benefits (EB) are now available to those who exhaust the allotted 26 weeks of regular state unemployment. IDES announced that unemployed individuals are eligible for an additional 13 weeks of federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits.

Illinois law provides for 20 weeks of extended benefits during times of “high unemployment,” as defined in the law, instead of the 13 weeks of extended benefits that was available in Illinois since May.

Currently, there are 30 states providing 13 weeks of extended benefits, and 19 states, including Illinois, providing 20 weeks of extended benefits.

South Dakota is the only state not currently providing any number of extended benefits weeks.

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