Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday announced low-income families will be able to tap into a $327 million pool of funds to help with rent and utility expenses in an effort to connect Illinoisans in need to “vital safety net programs.”
“It’s a historic investment to meet a historic moment,” Pritzker said. “We’re doing all that we can to make it as easy as possible for our residents to get help when they need it. I’m intent on delivering the pandemic recovery that our residents deserve.”
The $327 million is available through two state programs — the Low-Income Household Energy Assistance Program and the Community Services Block Grant Program. The funds can be put toward rent, utilities, food and other expenses related to housing regardless of a person’s immigration status.
Pritzker made the announcement at Peoria Citizens Committee for Economic Opportunity, one of the 37 community action agencies in the state that helps residents receive payments through the energy and community assistance programs.
Of the funds available, $209 million comes from federal funds Illinois received through the American Rescue Plan Act. Those seeking the aid can go to the state’s Help Illinois Families website to apply.
The governor said offering the dollars to state residents in need grants them “more access than ever before to vital safety net programs that can prevent them from falling behind on payments, falling into debt or risking their ability to get back to work.”
Sylvia Garcia, the acting director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, said the dollars offered through programs have been a “lifeline” for “many families struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Illinois has offered assistance in various forms since the start of the pandemic, including federal grants to help residents with their rent payments and other grant programs to help small businesses recover from the pandemic.
Along with the aid, Pritzker has extended the state’s eviction moratorium multiple times. The executive order is now slated to expire Oct. 3.
In August — when the ban on enforcing eviction orders was pushed until the end of that month — Pritzker urged tenants struggling to make their payments to go through Illinois’ Rental Payment Program and apply for a piece of the roughly $500 million in existing federal funds for rental assistance.
Pritzker’s administration also planned to set up an additional $60 million pool of funds that residents can access through the courts, allowing judges to direct those caught up in eviction proceedings to the funds, as well as legal assistance, if they haven’t yet sought other help.
Illinois landlords can still begin the eviction filing process, but evictions won’t be enforced until the end of the ban.