In December 2020, lawmakers passed a federal COVID-19 relief package that includes $25 billion for the Emergency Rental Assistance program to assist households that are unable to pay rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds are provided directly to States, U.S. Territories, local governments, and Indian tribes. In most cases, payments will be made directly to rental property owners.
The allocation for rental assistance programs in Illinois is $834,709,843. This will be distributed via statewide and local programs from:
- Champaign County: Program now open »
- City of Chicago: Opening for applications in May 2021.
- Cook County (suburban residents only): Program now closed. Learn more »
- DuPage County: Opening for applications on May 17, 2021, in partnership with IHDA.
- Kane County: Opening for applications on May 17, 2021, in partnership with IHDA.
- Lake County: Program now open »
- Madison County: Program now open »
- McHenry County: Program now open »
- Will County: Opening for applications on May 17, 2021, in partnership with IHDA. Learn more »
- Winnebago County: First round closed on April 15. A second round of applications opened on May 1; deadline to apply is May 15 »
- St. Clair County: Opening for applications on May 17, 2021, in partnership with IHDA. Learn more »
- State of Illinois: IHDA anticipates opening for applications on May 17, 2021; learn more and check here for updates. IDHS will also have a program, also likely opening in May 2021.
For the State of Illinois, Cook County and Chicago programs, chicookilrenthelp.org provides details on eligibility requirements and documents people will need in order to apply.
We will post links to other programs as they become available.
Please note that people can apply to both the state and local programs, but people cannot receive assistance to pay rent for the same month from two different sources.
- City of Chicago Department of Family & Support Services: Closed for applications on April 30. Learn more »
If you are need additional resources to help pay your rent, especially if you are risk of homelessness, please contact a homeless service provider through the coordinated entry network for your local Continuum of Care »
Prior COVID-19 Housing Assistance: CARES Act
In March 2020, 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. Illinois communities were allocated $332.6 million for three HUD programs funded through the CARES Act:
- Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG): $118,624,446
- Community Development Block Grant (CDBG): $212,110,193
- Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA): $1,822,667
ESG funds from the CARES Act are assisting sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness, as well as very low-income households (earning less than 50% of Area Median Income) at risk of homelessness. The funds can be used for eviction prevention assistance, including rapid rehousing, housing counseling, rental deposit assistance and other purposes.
HOPWA funds are being used for rental assistance and other services necessary to meet the housing needs of people living with HIV/AIDS.
CDBG funds are being 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.
Many Illinois communities committed 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.
In addition, using Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) dollars from the CARES Act, the State of Illinois and at least two local governments (Chicago and Cook County) committed additional resources for rent and mortgage assistance. The State of Illinois, through the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), committed more CRF resources for rent and mortgage assistance than any other state. The resulting Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) and Emergency Mortgage Assistance (EMA) programs disbursed more than $324,000,000 in past due rent and mortgage payments helping keep over 56,000 households safe and sheltered at home during the pandemic.
Pending COVID-19 Housing Assistance: American Rescue Plan
In March 2021, Congress voted to enact the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP). The COVID-19 relief package includes almost $50 billion in essential housing and homelessness assistance, including including more than $27 billion for rental assistance, $10 billion for homeowner assistance, $5 billion for homelessness assistance, $4.5 billion for utility assistance, $100 million for housing counseling and $20 million for fair housing activities.
On March 11, the relief package was signed into law by President Biden.
Research & Guidance on Emergency Rental Assistance Programs
- U.S. Department of the Treasury: Emergency Rental Assistance Program: The federal rental assistance funds approved in December 2020 are being administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Their program webpage has numerous program resources, including a revised FAQ document, released in February 2021, addressing many of the flaws in previously released guidance. However, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) sent a subsequent letter to Treasury asking or additional improvements and clarifications. Hopefully, an updated FAQ will be released soon.
- How to Establish and Improve Emergency Rental Assistance Programs: This May 2021 report from NLIHC and the National League of Cities shares principles and best practice programs. Read report »
- Prioritization in Emergency Rental Assistance Programs: A Framework of Strategies, Policies, and Procedures to Better Serve Priority Populations: This April 2020 report from NLIHC and the Center for Law and Social Policy’s outlines how emergency rental assistance programs can incorporate strategies, policies, and procedures that embed equity and give priority to renters most impacted by COVID-19 and at greatest risk of housing instability. Read report »
- Learning from Emergency Rental Assistance Programs: Lessons from Fifteen Case Studies (NLIHC, NYU Furman Center, Housing Initiative at Penn) examines 15 emergency rental assistance programs and how they evolved to better serve renters, especially the lowest-income and most marginalized renters. The report focuses on the key challenges programs administrators faced, the innovative strategies they used to address these challenges, and the lessons current and future program administrators can take away. Read report »
- Advancing Racial Equity in Emergency Rental Assistance Programs (NLIHC, NYU Furman Center, Housing Initiative at Penn) discusses five general strategies for advancing racial equity, based on lessons learned from a survey of 220 emergency rental assistances and interviews with program administrators. The lessons include ensuring that funding allocations are based on jurisdictional need; targeting assistance to groups with more vulnerabilities, including prioritizing applications from certain populations or neighborhoods; investing in outreach, including partnering with trusted community organizations; simplifying applications and documentation requirements; and monitoring program processes and outcomes and making mid-course corrections. Read report »
- COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance: Analysis of a National Survey of Programs (NLIHC, NYU Furman Center, Housing Initiative at Penn) provides an analysis of key emergency rental assistance program design and implementation decisions from a national survey of over 200 program administrators. The report examines program decisions against several outcome metrics, including a ratio of actual number of applicants to expected number of applicants and funds obligated as a share of total program funds. Read report »