At the end of March, the Chicago Housing Department created an emergency assistance program for residents impacted by the coronavirus crisis. The payments of $1,000, which will start going out this week, will help some residents make rent and mortgage payments this month.
During the five days applications were accepted, more than 83,000 people applied for the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Grant, according to news reported by the Chicago Sun-Times. Half of the grants will be distributed through community organizations and the other half will go through the city’s lottery. Right now, housing department officials are sorting through applications to ensure that residents have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city used $2 million from the Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund. Now, the housing department is working to find more funding sources for other possible rounds of payment. Those that have applied and did not receive money will be eligible for any future funds from the grant.
What’s important about this emergency assistance is that both people experiencing homelessness and undocumented residents are eligible for the grant. Unlike money from the federal stimulus package.
Organizers and housing activists are asking local leaders and the governor to put a freeze on rent, mortgage, and utility payments. Currently, there’s a moratorium on utility shut-offs and late fees. Evictions are on hold, too. Housing advocates are worried that there might be a bottleneck of evictions when the courts open back up on May 18. While no one can be kicked out for not paying rent or a mortgage right now, landlords are still allowed to file complaints with the courts.
“We are at a dire moment. We’ve been making these demands for a really long time,” said 33rd Ward Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez recently. A handful of aldermen, local leaders, and groups have asked state leaders to repeal the ban on rent control (which is the legislation that prevents a rent and mortgage freeze).
So far, that isn’t something the Gov. Pritzker has said he’d do even though he campaigned on ending the ban.
The state is flooded with new unemployment claims. After the governor declared a state of emergency and issued a stay-at-home order, nearly 300,000 people in Illinois have filed for unemployment. The Illinois Department of Employment Security offices are so overloaded with claims, officials are now asking people to stagger their applications. What’s clear in this is that people are going to have trouble paying rent for the next few months.