It’s said to be a lifeline: more than $ 1 billion in federal rental and relief funds that Congress has earmarked for Americans hardest hit by the pandemic.
Illinois received a decent chunk of that funding: more than $ 800 million.
But NBC 5 Responds records show that much of the government’s funds are still in an account – not yet paid off – while the cloud of uncertainty about how long eviction moratoriums will last looms over fearful tenants.
Housing lawyers and civil servants are preparing for a potential flurry of housing problems.
In a recent US Census Household Pulse Survey, more than 109,000 Illinois residents responded that they were likely to face eviction, and just over 19,000 said the same thing about foreclosing their homes.
It is for this reason that the emergent CARES Act of Congressional Emergency Rent Assistance Program stands ready to save many from homelessness.
The problem, however, is the process of getting the money into the hands of those who need it most.
NBC 5 Responds examined the latest numbers for two Illinois government agencies that currently hold the bulk of the rental subsidy funds: the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) and the Department of Human Services (IDHS).
IHDA’s numbers show that it distributed about 46 percent of the $ 504 million it was supposed to deliver to renters and landlords. To date, the Office has received more than 96,000 requests for assistance through its online portal.
IDHS has taken a different approach to delivering the funds allocated to it.
The IDHS records show that through a network of community providers across the state, it has paid out approximately 11 percent of the $ 117 million to more than 4,000 applicants since April.
State officials and attorneys said many people in Illinois find themselves in a scenario they have never experienced before: facing the maze of procedures and trials in eviction courts as they seek both financial and legal assistance in order to to keep them afloat. NBC 5 replies.
Housing officials told NBC 5 that these findings highlighted the need for a recent extension of the state’s eviction moratorium (to learn more Click here). They stated that more time is needed to get rental assistance into the hands of those who need it most.
In a virtual interview, IDHS Secretary Grace Hou agreed to extend the state moratorium, stressing that the programs are working as quickly as possible while ensuring that funds are distributed responsibly.
“We have a very compassionate yet cautious science-based approach,” Hou said. “We don’t want our program to be questioned negatively in the further course.”
Hou said IHDA’s Rental Assistance Program is designed to take thousands of applications across the state virtually through an online portal and deliver funds directly to tenants and landlords.
But the IDHS plan is different.
“We know this one-size-fits-all isn’t for all renters and landlords looking for help,” said Hou.
The IDHS rent subsidy distribution plan, Hou explained, is a “personal floor game”; played by a team of grassroots, immigration and faith organizations who work with the agency to help communities who are most in need and who are afraid to turn to the government for help.
To view a list of IDHS rental assistance providers in your area, Click here.
“People may be familiar with the programs, but in some communities there may be a fear of actually accessing some of these programs,” Hou said, adding that some families need more than just rental assistance.
“We work with families who may have a number of other challenges,” said Hou. “The programs are designed to work hand in hand to address different households in different situations.”
The call for more rental assistance, delivered faster, isn’t unique to Illinois. This week, the Treasury Department confirmed that the bulk of the country’s earmarked funds – 89% – is still in the pipeline.
If state and local authorities do not distribute rental support funds by September 30, the Treasury Department has the right to redistribute these funds to areas of continuing need.
But a local silver lining: federal agencies said Illinois was one of the best-improved programs, with its spike from spending in May to more than $ 96 million the following month.
Hou said she understood the sense of urgency, but state officials also need to balance it with thoughtful and strategic and deliberate processes.
While the IHDA application portal is temporarily closed for renters or landlords seeking help with renting out, Hou said it will reopen in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, tenants and landlords can apply for assistance through the IDHS provider network.