State offering $5,000 grants for tenants struggling to pay rent amid pandemic. Here’s how to apply

Applicants can start applying online Monday morning.

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Protesters calling for Gov. J.B. Prtizker to lift the ban on rent control in Illinois during the coronavirus pandemic hang a sign and post “eviction notices” on the governor’s Gold Coast mansion on North Astor Street, Tuesday afternoon, June 30, 2020.

Protesters calling for Gov. J.B. Prtizker to lift the ban on rent control in Illinois during the coronavirus pandemic hang a sign and post “eviction notices” on the governor’s Gold Coast mansion on North Astor Street, Tuesday afternoon, June 30, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

Illinoisans struggling to make rent can apply Monday to qualify for a $5,000 grant in a $150 million program targeting residents hurt financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program, funded by the federal CARES Act, will offer rental assistance to about 30,000 renters across the state.

The application portal is expected to come online at 9 a.m. Monday and remain open until Aug. 21, a day before the state’s eviction moratorium is set to expire. Another state program offering $150 million in federally funded grants to homeowners will accept applications between Aug. 24 and Sept. 4.

Kristin Faust, executive director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the agency administering the grants, said the state is “really trying to prevent a huge eviction or foreclosure crisis” as the economy continues to falter in the face of the pandemic.

In June, the Illinois Department of Employment Security reported that 14.6% of Illinoisans were unemployed, up more than 10% from the same time last year.

To apply for rent relief, tenants must first upload a photo of their identification and provide the name and email address of their landlord. The property owner will then be alerted and prompted to upload a series of documents. The grants can be used to cover rent payments between March and December, Faust said.

IDHA expects to start wiring the first grant checks to landlords by Aug. 28, according to Faust, who anticipates that all the payments will be doled out by the end of September. She hopes the other grants for mortgage holders will all be issued by late October.

“We’re trying to keep people where they need to be, which is at home with shelter and not having to add another level of worry around their housing stability,” she said.

Efforts to forestall a looming housing crisis have intensified since a federal eviction moratorium expired last month. On Friday, Cook County officials announced a separate rental assistance program that will utilize $20 million in federal funding and begin accepting applications Monday.

Though President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders Saturday that included an eviction ban, advocates have raised concerns that the measure doesn’t help most imperiled renters. Meanwhile, Faust is pushing for more federal money to assist Illinois renters and homeowners.

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