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As COVID-19 spreads, layoffs are surging in Illinois and across the country. After Gov. Pritzker declared a state emergency, the number of new unemployment claims in Illinois spiked. Typically, housing costs are the largest monthly expense—and millions of Americans could have trouble paying rent or mortgages in the next few months.
Anticipating this economic fall out, Chicago officials have created an emergency housing grant. If you’re a renter or homeowner, here is how the city is trying to help.
If you need help paying rent or a mortgage
There’s a new COVID-19 Housing Assistance Grant for emergency housing assistance, specifically for people who are financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. It will pay a one-time $1,000 to residents who are eligible, which includes renters, homeowners, and unhoused people who have lost jobs or a reduction in hours. This also includes undocumented residents.
The application window is short—between Friday, March 27 to Wednesday, April 1. So, if you need help submit information through an online form. Applicants who are selected will be entered into a lottery and hear back in a few days from the Department of Housing.
Specifically for renters, there is an emergency financial assistance in order to prevent homelessness or those who are at risk of eviction. In order to apply, residents must get an application packet from one of the city’s community service centers and mail it in (this process still stands, even with the stay-at-home order). Once approved, the payments will be made directly to the property owner or landlord.
Metropolitan Tenants Organization: A nonprofit that educates renters and advocates for affordable, accessible housing. They have a list of resources for tenants impacted by the novel coronavirus and an emergency hotline at (773) 292-4988
Housing Action Illinois: This statewide coalition brings together more than 160 housing counseling agencies, homeless service providers, developers, and policymakers. They have a comprehensive list of resources that is updated daily with new information and housing assistance programs.
Chicago’s online Coronavirus Response Center: Here you’ll find all the city’s latest orders and assistance programs regarding housing, utilities, and emergency assistance. In the resources tab, there’s the latest guidance from the health department, where to volunteer or donate, and housing services.
If you are concerned about a possible eviction
The city won’t enforce evictions or foreclosures until April 14. This means if you are unable to pay your rent, you can’t be evicted within this timeframe. An eviction must be ordered by a judge and enforced by the county sheriff—it’s illegal for landlords to lockout or kick out tenants.
In a recent address, Lightfoot asked property owners and landlords to “give tenants some grace.” A group of aldermen and housing coalitions are demanding more. Critics of Lightfoot argue that the city must extend the hold on evictions and foreclosures and also freeze rent and mortgages in order to really prevent housing instability and homelessness.
If you can’t make utility payments
The Illinois Commerce Commission ordered all public gas, electricity, water and sewage utility companies to stop service disconnections and waive late fees until May 1, or until the state of emergency is lifted. While ComEd and Peoples Gas are private, both of these companies have also agreed not to shut-off service or charge late fees until May 1.