In March, Congress passed the CARES Act, a $2 trillion direct spending bill to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, which provided $12 billion in housing and community development resources. To date, Illinois communities have been allocated $258 million for three HUD programs funded through the CARES Act:
- Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG)
- Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)
- Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA)
ESG funds from the CARES Act will assist sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness, as well as very low-income households (earning less than 50% of Area Median Income) who are at risk of homelessness. The funds can also be used for eviction prevention assistance, including rapid rehousing, housing counseling, and rental deposit assistance.
In early April, HUD announced the first CARES Act allocations. In Illinois, the total received by state and local governments based on HUD’s formula was:
- ESG: $49,474,916
- CDBG: $98,357,793
- HOPWA: $1,822,667
On June 9, HUD posted the amounts for the second and final allocation of funding for the ESG from the CARES Act. Overall, state and local governments in Illinois are receiving $69.2 million in ESG funding from this allocation, including $30.5 million for the City of Chicago and $24.7 million for the State of Illinois.
HOPWA funds will be used for rental assistance and other services necessary to meet the housing needs of people living with HIV/AIDS.
CDBG funds are used for housing and community development activities that primarily benefit low- to moderate-income residents. Local recipients of CDBG funds can decide to spend a portion of their CARES Act allocation on housing. Additional CDBG funds have yet to be allocated—$2 billion of the $5 million total appropriated in the CARES Act.
Many communities have posted plans for how they plan to spend their first allocation of CDBG, ESG, and HOPWA funds, which were made shortly after the CARES Act passed.
We are pleased that many Illinois communities are using a portion of their CDBG funds to support programs creating affordable housing and ending homelessness. These communities include Aurora, Chicago, Bloomington, Evanston, Normal, Rock Island, Springfield, Urbana, Waukegan, Lake County, McHenry County, and Will County.
The most common types of CDBG spending on housing are rental and utility assistance, as well as support for homeless service providers. Other types of assistance include mortgage assistance, legal services, and housing counseling.
This and other CARES Act funding will help many people maintain and secure homes during the public health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19.
However, it’s only a start. That’s why we are calling on the United States Senate to take action in the next COVID-19 response package, the HEROES Act. The $3 trillion bill proposes almost $200 billion in additional funding for housing and homelessness programs to help communities respond to the coronavirus crisis. This bill passed the House in May, but the Senate has yet to take it up. It’s crucial that this bill passes in July, before the expiration of expanded unemployment benefits.