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Preckwinkle Announces COVID-19 Recovery Rental Assistance Program

Saturday, August 08, 2020
Journal and Topics Online

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development and the Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC) announced the launch of a $20 million rental assistance program to help suburban Cook County residents experiencing financial insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funded by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the program pays one to three months of overdue or future rent for income-eligible households. Payments will be made directly to landlords on behalf of tenants up to a total of $4,500.

“This is the right thing to do for public health and our economy. I am proud to announce The Cook County Covid-19 Recovery: Rental Assistance program that we are launching with our CARES Act funding,” Preckwinkle said. “We have conducted outreach throughout Cook County, and we know that renters are facing severe challenges making ends meet due to the pandemic. We also know that the pandemic is far from over. This rental assistance will provide much-needed relief to working families in suburban Cook County.”

The Cook County eviction moratorium ends on August 22, 2020, but many residents have not recovered from the financial impacts of the pandemic and the stay-at-home order. Without supplemental funding to help pay their rent, families across the county are at risk of being evicted once they are no longer protected by the moratorium. This funding can help working residents stay in their homes while they get back on their feet.

“This pandemic is unfortunately far from over, and people will be struggling with the economic impacts for some time,” State Senate President Don Harmon said. “Housing is one of the most basic needs, and I am glad this program will help families in Cook County who are struggling due to COVID-19.”

“Half of county residents were already struggling to keep a roof over their heads before COVID-19 hit, so the pandemic is exacerbating already dire affordable housing conditions in communities of color throughout Cook County,” Commissioner Brandon Johnson said. “We must do whatever it takes to help people stay in their homes and keep their families safe. Today’s plan protects families and individuals impacted by COVID while empowering them to keep making rent payments.”

The funding will be available to renter households with incomes under 80% of the area median income (AMI) who have unpaid rent balances charged during the pandemic. 25% is targeted to what are called Disparately Impacted Areas. Using the county’s equitable distribution model, this 25% will be committed to the hardest hit communities to ensure direct assistance is available to help residents.

“We recognize the critical importance of allowing residents to remain in their homes” said Xochitl Flores, bureau chief of economic development. “This represents a holistic approach to address tenants needs and provide direct rental assistance, eviction prevention, and stabilization services to the residents of suburban Cook County.”

Residents can review their eligibility and apply for rental assistance at www.cookcountyil.gov/recovery.

The application period will be open Aug. 10 through Aug. 18. Applications are available through the online portal in many languages including Spanish, Polish, Russian, Korean, Chinese, Arabic, and Hindi.

Available rental assistance funding will be awarded by a lottery system. Payments will go out on a rolling basis as quickly as possible in order to provide timely relief.

“The funds will be administered by the Housing Authority of Cook County, the principal provider of publicly subsidized housing in suburban Cook County,” said Rich Monocchio, executive director of HACC. “HACC currently provides partial rent payments to private landlords on behalf of nearly 15,000 Cook County residents as part of the Housing Choice Voucher Program. HACC’s experienced staff and existing system for processing rental payments will ensure the smooth, swift distribution of funds.”

The Rental Assistance program is a part of Cook County’s COVID-19 Recovery Initiative, which includes zero-interest loans for small businesses and contractors, emergency housing for shelter residents and those reentering from the justice system, and tax relief for businesses.

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