$1,000 available to survivors of gender-based violence through Chicago program

One-time cash assistance will go to city residents who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking.

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Rows of $100 bills are lined up on a flat surface.

A new program will provide one-time cash assistance to Chicago residents who have experienced gender-based violence such as domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking.

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More than 1,300 survivors of gender-based violence have applied for a new program Chicago officials launched this month that will provide one-time direct cash assistance.

The Emergency Financial Assistance for Gender-based Violence and Human Trafficking Survivors aims to reach more than 5,000 Chicago residents who will receive a one-time benefit of $1,000 in a bank account or through a prepaid debit card. Less than a week after applications opened, 1,352 people have applied for the program, according to the Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence.

It’s the latest form of direct cash assistance from the city as residents continue to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The Chicago Resilient Communities Pilot — which provided $500 for a year to 5,000 residents — is sending out its last benefit this summer. Another city program, the Chicago Resiliency Fund, provided a one-time payment of $500 to domestic workers and undocumented immigrants who were shut out of other federal pandemic relief efforts.

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To qualify for the latest program, survivors must live within city limits, and their income must be at or below 300% of the federal poverty level. For a single person, that means their income must be at or below $43,740, and for a family of three it would be at or below $74,580. Applications are being accepted online here

The program is part of the city’s Department of Family and Support Services, and they contracted with the Chicago-based organization, the Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence, to administer the program. The organization previously ran a similar program using private funding.

The program would like to reach residents — of any immigration status — who have experienced gender-based violence such as domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking.

More than 700 people applied for the assistance a day after the program started accepting applications, said Amanda Pyron, the executive director of the Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence.

It could take up to two months from the time a person submits an application to when the funds are distributed, she said. Applicants can self attest to being a survivor of gender-based violence — even if it happened years ago — though the process will ask for proof of residency and income verification.

“We worked really diligently to make sure the application is as seamless to complete as possible,” Pyron said, adding the people processing the applications are trained to work with survivors of domestic violence in an effort to reduce barriers to the program.

During the pilot phase of the program that took place earlier this year, an estimated 80% of the distributed funds were used toward housing, Pyron said.

That could be because many survivors of gender-based violence also experience financial hardships that could have been caused by the perpetrator, Pyron said. For example, some domestic violence survivors reported that their partner had taken their income.

“So this one-time cash assistance allows them to move from crisis to safety,” Pyron said. “To fix their car, buy items for their children.”

The program will continue to accept applications until the funding runs out, though Pyron said officials think that could happen as soon as June 30. Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration did not respond to repeated questions to provide further details about the program’s funding.

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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