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Cook County launches rental assistance program for suburban residents

Applicants can receive up to $15,000 in rental assistance. The application process is open through April 2.

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle
Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle.
Sun-Times file

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Thursday launched a program that will provide millions in rental assistance to residents of suburban Cook County.

The COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program will disburse $65 million to help renters facing eviction and allow landlords to apply for relief on behalf of their tenants.

“We know that working families in the suburbs are suffering,” Preckwinkle said Thursday morning at a virtual news conference. “Unpaid rent, evictions, foreclosures and other debts can have a lasting negative impact on a person’s life and future...we’re here to help.”

People seeking help can visit www.cookcountyil.gov/recovery to begin the application process. The deadline is April 2.

The millions in financial relief is from federal COVID-19 relief funds.

Preference will be given to households that earn between 50% and 80% of area median income, as well as to people who’ve become unemployed within 90 days of applying.

The maximum amount available to applicants seeking rental assistance is $15,000.

Applicants can also seek to tap an additional $8 million available for utility assistance and services to help with foreclosures and other debt burdens.

“During this time and over the past year, I have seen endless constituents coming to our office asking for any type of help, whether it’s a lead in a job opportunity or any other cash assistance,” Cook County Commissioner Alma E. Anaya said. “Programs like this make a real impact in people’s lives.”

Earlier this week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker extended the state’s eviction moratorium through April 3.

“While actions like the eviction moratorium served as a critical support in keeping renters in their homes and off the street, it did not relieve renters from their obligation to pay rent, leaving many with a huge accumulation of debt,” said Xochitl Flores, bureau chief of economic development for Cook County.

Under a similar county rental assistance program last fall, the county helped about 1,000 residents pay rent, Preckwinkle said.

Half of the people who received the assistance were Black residents and 60% were women, she said. The latest round of relief will continue to focus on an “equitable recovery.”

“We want to help as many people as we can and target our help to the people most in need,” she said.