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Cook County to give direct payments to suburban residents hurt by COVID-19 pandemic: ‘What they need is cash’
Monday, October 26, 2020 Chicago Tribune by Alice Yin
Suburban Cook County residents who faced financial hardships during the coronavirus pandemic are eligible for a one-time cash payment of $600, officials announced Monday.
Using about $2.1 million in federal coronavirus relief, the resident cash assistance program will accept applications until Nov. 6 and serve about 3,000 people, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said at a news conference. The $600 will be transferred directly to selected applicants. Residents can apply at https://fund.uptogether.org/suburbancookcountyfund.
“Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases are on the rise and the pandemic is far from being over,” Preckwinkle said. “Many of our communities are facing layoffs, furloughs and the notion of living check-to-check is becoming less of a possibility. People are choosing between buying groceries or paying bills.”
To be eligible, residents must have made no more than 250% of the federal poverty level before March 1, or $65,500 for a family of four. They need to show documents proving they suffered unpaid leave, cared for sick or vulnerable relatives or lost wages from closures during the pandemic.
The application also requires either a government-issued identification with the applicant’s address or two alternative IDs. Money will be deposited into a bank, CashApp, PayPal or Chime account, or it will be delivered in a prepaid card, depending on the applicant’s preference.
The program is run in partnership with the national nonprofit Family Independence Initiative, whose partnership director, Ebony Scott, appeared with Preckwinkle on Monday to vouch for the effectiveness of one-time cash payments.
“Our families don’t need patriarchal approaches and hand-holding,” Scott said. “What they need is cash. What they need is investment. What they need is to have the things that they lost because of this horrible pandemic replaced. And that’s what this fund represents.”
During the late spring, qualifying households received money transfers of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child through the coronavirus relief bill, a rare instance of bipartisan support for direct cash payments during a crisis. Passing a second bill with similar stimulus checks could keep millions out of poverty, according to the Urban Institute. But talks for more relief have stalled in Washington.
“We once again call on our federal partners for action,” Preckwinkle said. “But in the face of these troubling times, we in local government must move forward. We must do what we can with what we have. We know that the need remains critical and urgent.”
Another measure announced Monday was a utility assistance program, this time open to both suburban and Chicago residents. Run by the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, the program makes one-time payments for gas, electric, water and furnace bills.
The two programs come a week after the county opened up its suburban housingvoucher waitlist for the first time in nearly 20 years. Preckwinkle said Monday that about 50,000 people already have applied for the waitlist, which must be capped at 10,000.
“COVID has forced individuals and families to make hard choices to stay healthy, to maintain their well-being, keep food on the table, a roof over their heads and their bills paid,” said Xochitl Flores, the county’s bureau chief of economic development. “Fortunately, we can offer some assistance during this time.”
Alice Yin works the overnight shift at the Tribune, responsible for covering whatever breaks. She is a Medill School of Journalism graduate and was a statehouse reporter for the Associated Press in Michigan before being hired last summer by the Sun-Times. Alice likes to explore new restaurants, go jogging and frequent bookshops.