Rent assistance program aims to prevent evictions

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Photo: Justin Agrelo

Tenants and landlords who lost their jobs due to Covid-19 were among those gathered at a “Pritzkerville” encampment outside the Richard J. Daley Center in August.

A new court program aims to help Cook County residents pay off rent and avoid eviction.

The rental assistance program, scheduled to launch on Friday, comes as the statewide moratorium on evictions put in place by Illinois Governor JB Pritzker in response to the Covid-19 is due to expire on October 3. Researchers at Loyola University in Chicago estimated that up to 30,000 new eviction cases could be filed in Chicago after the moratorium expires.

The program, funded by federal funds from US $ 21 billion bailout that Congress passed in March, is a collaboration between Chicago, Cook County and state agencies and Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt, a collection of legal aid organizations. A similar program, administered by the Illinois Department of Housing and the Illinois Supreme Court, will be available to tenants in other counties in the state.

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The court program is designed to reach people with active deportation cases the first time they appear in court, said Bob Glaves, executive director of the Chicago Bar Foundation, one of the legal aid partners. from the program. City or county officials in evictions court will notify tenants that they are eligible to apply for rent assistance and will assist them with the application, Glaves said.

Susan Campbell, director of planning and development for the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development, which oversees all rental assistance in the county, said the goal was to process requests and provide funding in both weeks after the first hearing date.

“When they come back to court in two weeks, the judge can look in the system and say, ‘Oh, okay, this person has been approved, and I can fire. [the case] and make sure the owner has that payment, ”Campbell said.

A spokesperson for the Cook County Circuit Court asked questions of other program partners.

The court-based program is part of a larger cycle of rental assistance made available through the American Rescue Plan. Cook County landlords and tenants who are not in active eviction proceedings can apply for funding to reimburse rent or utilities via an app that opens on October 4.

More than 17,000 people applied in the first round of housing assistance, and just over 7,300 applicants were approved, according to county data. Of those who were approved, around 40% were immediately threatened with deportation.

The new court program aims to give these people a last chance to obtain financial assistance before being deported.

“We know there are people who for whatever reason have fallen through the cracks, ending up in court for eviction, where they could still benefit from one of these rent assistance programs. “Glaves said.

Court officials will help people make a claim when they first appear in court, Glaves said. Applicants requesting relief will be transferred to Zoom chat rooms, where representatives will advise them what documents to provide. Applicants will be able to upload the necessary documents on their own or with the help of a housing advocacy organization, Campbell said.

Campbell said the federal government “allows more leniency” in eligibility for this round of housing benefits, but that there are still some income requirements. Renters are eligible if they earn less than 80% of the area’s median income, or $ 74,500 for a family of four. Applicants can receive up to $ 25,000 to pay 12 months of retroactive rent or up to three months of future rent. Landlords must agree to the program for tenants to receive the money. When a tenant is approved, the Housing Authority of Cook County will pay the money directly to the landlords, Campbell said.

People who are not immediately threatened with eviction but need help covering their rent or charges can still apply for rental assistance through the links below:

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