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More Than 80,000 Illinois Renters Applied For Assistance Program That Can Serve 30,000

Illinois is starting to award grants to renters to help them catch up on late payments. But the need far outpaces the funding available and more than 50,000 applicants won't get help.

State lawmakers set aside $150 million in federal funding to help 30,000 renters behind on payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 80,000 applied, according to Illinois Housing Development Authority spokesman Andrew Field. The numbers are “verifying that housing instability is real for many hardworking residents of Illinois,” Field wrote in an emailed statement.

IHDA began notifying renters who were awarded the assistance September 10, and that will continue through October 31.

Kristin Faust, the agency’s executive director, acknowledged that they would not be able to meet the need for assistance when the program was announced in August and called on the federal government to offer more assistance to renters.

For the tens of thousands who didn’t get help, there is some hope. Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently announced another extension of the statewide eviction ban until October 22nd.

IHDA’s $150 million mortgage assistance program is similarly oversubscribed - with nearly 20,000 applicants and approximately 10,000 who will get grants.

Erica Smith, the executive director of Helping Hands - a men’s shelter in Springfield, said the numbers show policymakers need to prepare for a surge in people experiencing homelessness. She said they need to look at rapid rehousing and homelessness prevention programs.

“And we’ve got to prepare our emergency shelters as well to be low-barrier, to be able to take people in but also be very prepared to help them exit to permanent housing as fast as possible,” she said.

If not, shelters could be overwhelmed and there could be more people on the streets in unsheltered homelessness.

“The longer that people remain in homelessness, which is a trauma, the harder it is to get out of that,” she said.

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