SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker was joined by the Illinois Housing Development Authority and local elected officials in Chicago Friday to promote the Illinois Emergency Homeowner Assistance Fund for struggling homeowners.
Overseen by the housing authority, the emergency assistance fund is funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act and is dedicated to assisting Illinois homeowners who have struggled to pay their mortgage or other housing expenses such as utilities and home energy services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know that families across Illinois are still facing financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we want everyone to know that housing help is here,” housing authority Executive Director Kristin Faust said at a news conference.
The American Rescue Plan Act was passed by Congress in 2021, and Illinois received $309 million to cover housing costs such as past-due mortgage payments, property taxes, property insurance, and delinquent homeowner and condo association fees. Part of the delay in setting up the fund was a wait for federal approval.
Homeowners can apply for a grant up to $30,000 in mortgage support that will eliminate or reduce payments associated with homeownership.
To be approved, homeowners must consult with a certified Housing and Urban Development counselor or speak to their mortgage service provider to ask for help and then, depending on the outcome, apply for assistance through the housing authority online portal.
Applicants are required to have a certificate from a HUD-certified housing counselor or a letter from the mortgage servicer detailing efforts to resolve the delinquency.
To qualify, homeowners must be at least 30 days behind on their mortgage, have household income at or below 150% of the area median income, own and occupy the property as their primary residence and have experienced financial struggles directly related to COVID-19 on or after Jan. 21, 2020.
Rep. Aaron Ortiz, a Chicago Democrat, said when the pandemic began, he had constituents come into his district office upset and concerned about how they were going to pay their mortgage. He noted that the pandemic intensified problems such as economic inequality, a lack of good paying jobs and housing insecurity.
“Thousands of parents across the state lose sleep worrying what will happen to their children if they can’t pay their mortgage. We can’t let that continue to happen,” Ortiz said. “The relief provided by this fund could not come at a better time.”
When applying, homeowners will need to provide proof of identification, household income, household occupancy, ownership and delinquency of the mortgage, property tax, or insurance statements.
People can apply for funds at no cost until the end of May through at www.idha.org, or they can call (866) 454-3571 for assistance.
The housing authority has also partnered with nonprofit housing counseling agencies, community-based organizations and legal aid groups to assist homeowners facing language or technological barriers to the online application portal.
Renters can apply for assistance through the Illinois Department of Human Services. Eligible households could receive up to 15 months of rent payments, including previous rent owed from June 2020 through August 2021.
To be eligible for rental assistance, residents must have a household income at or below 80% of area median income, have experienced a financial hardship directly or indirectly due to the pandemic and be behind on rent or at risk of experiencing homelessness or instability.
The income limit will depend on the county and is adjusted for the number of people living within the household.
Since the pandemic began, the state housing authority has distributed more than $593 million to fund more than 64,000 applicants in need of rental assistance, according to its website.
“Housing stability is a crucial part of our economic recovery,” Pritzker said. “A good life, a good job, the ability for kids to focus in their classrooms — it all starts with having a roof over your head.”