With Illinois’ ban on evictions set to expire in two weeks, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is considering extending the coronavirus-spurred prohibition as state officials work to set up a program to distribute more than $300 million in help to landlords and tenants.
State officials are working to set up a $150 million program through the Illinois Housing Development Authority that will allow tenants, who have been unable to pay rent, to enter a lottery for a $5,000 grant. Another $150 million is earmarked to help homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages.
“The administration is currently assessing what assistance granted through executive order needs to be extended as we continue fighting this pandemic,” said Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokesperson for Pritzker.
Andrew Field, a spokesperson for the housing development authority, said officials want to ensure that the lottery is up and running before the ban expires.
However, it is not clear when Illinois residents will be able to apply for the $150 million in assistance to renters and $150 million for landlords, since it is not clear when the program will launch. Those $5,000 grants would be paid directly to landlords on behalf of tenants, and to loan companies for property owners, officials said.
The program is designed to help 30,000 renters in Illinois, officials said.
Chicagoans who lost their jobs or found their paychecks scaled back because of the coronavirus pandemic are protected from evictions for an additional two months after the state’s ban ends under a measure approved in June by the Chicago City Council.
A trio of landlords from Will and Winnebago counties sued the governor over the eviction ban in June after he extended the prohibition to July 31, even as the state entered the fourth phase of its reopening plan on June 26.
In response, lawyers for the governor argued that the ban was proper because it was designed to stop the coronavirus from spreading among newly evicted residents, who would have a hard time finding a new home.
State Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-Chicago) said the moratorium should be extended until Sept. 1, since it will take at least two weeks for checks to be issued after the program starts, even if applications are available starting Aug. 1.
Ramirez said she remains concerned that a wave of evictions will crash across Illinois once the ban is lifted, saying her office has been inundated with calls for help from people unable to pay their rent because of the pandemic.
To be eligible for the grant, tenants must have fallen behind on rent in March, and certify that they lost income because of the coronavirus pandemic, Field said. The grant can be used to pay back missed rent, and cover rent payments through Dec. 31, he added.
Applicants have to earn less than 50% of the area’s median income, officials said, which for a Chicago family of four is $44,500 per year, according to city data.
Landlords that receive a grant payment must agree not to evict the tenant through the end of the year, Field said.
As part of the state’s budget for the 2021 fiscal year, state lawmakers earmarked $396 million in federal funds designed to help the state cover the cost of responding to the coronavirus pandemic for housing assistance.
A bill backed by progressive Democrats in the Illinois House that proposed canceling rent and mortgage payments statewide for 180 days failed to advance, and the additional assistance funds were included as part of a compromise during a four-day emergency session.
Officials plan to use $96 million to administer the plan, and to reach out to local community groups who can encourage their members to apply for the grants, Field said. Leftover funds will be returned to the assistance fund, he added.