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State, Local Rental Assistance Still Available For McLean County Tenants

For Rent signage
David Zalubowski
Tenants in need are encouraged to apply for assistance through both state and local channels.

McLean County tenants who are struggling because of the pandemic have another place to turn for help paying their rent.

The state’s new rental assistance program is now taking applications for $5,000 grants to catch up on payments since March, or to cover payments through December. About 511,000 households in Illinois did not pay last month’s rent or deferred a payment, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities of census data collected between June 25 and July 7.

The federally funded Illinois Housing Development Authority program is separate from the local housing and utility assistance that has been available for several months. The coalition of local governments and nonprofits spearheading that effort recently estimated between $1.6 million and $2.7 million in assistance would be needed. Locally, so far, about $500,000 in housing and utility assistance has gone to help 1,300 families in McLean County, said Lauren Gibson, a coalition member and community planner at the McLean County Regional Planning Commission.

Tenants in need are encouraged to apply for assistance through both the state and local channels, said Adrian Barr, managing attorney at Prairie State Legal Services in Bloomington.

“The demand is high, but there’s still a lot of aid available,” Barr said.

Applications for the state’s rental assistance program are due Aug. 21. The state’s eviction moratorium ends Aug. 22, but the fund only has enough to help about 30,000 tenants.

So, Gibson encouraged people needing help to apply as soon as possible.

"It's a really short timeline," Gibson said at a United Way of McLean County virtual town hall meeting this week.

One benefit of the state program is that it doesn’t require applicants to be U.S. citizens, "which is a really good thing, because we know that immigrant demographic could be struggling more than others at this time," Gibson said, noting applications are in several languages.

Generally, tenants will need some sort of help or signoff from their landlord to receive assistance, such as providing a copy of a lease or other documentation, Barr said.

Some landlords are going frustrated or nearing a financial breaking point themselves, he said. Landlords should see these rental assistance programs as an opportunity to help their tenants get caught up on rent and avoid emptying a unit that might be hard to fill later, Barr said.

“It’s been a tough time for everyone, a stressful time for everyone. Maybe we can start from a clean slate and try and qualify for rental assistance one way or the other,” Barr said.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.