Unable to pay rent? New Winnebago-Boone relief program to help renters impacted by COVID pandemic

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Winnebago and Boone County renters can apply for relief thanks to a new COVID Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

“It’s really hard for people to get caught up when they’re just starting back up again if they owe several months of rent. That’s alot of money to get saved up to pay your current bills and still take care of your family,” said Angie Walker, the Homeless Program Coordinator for the City of Rockford.

The new program was launched by the city’s Community Action Agency to help tenants who may still be struggling to keep up with their payments due to COVID-19.

“We do try to be as flexible as possible because a lot of things have happened in the last year,” Walker said.

The $680,000 in funding from the U.S. Treasury Department was made available through the Illinois Department of Human Services. This will help tenants in both Winnebago and Boone counties. There are requirements and applicants must be able to show how they have been impacted financially by the pandemic.

“Whether they worked in a restaurant and their job closed down. Maybe they were actually sick with covid and lost income. Maybe a family member was sick and they had to care for them. Maybe it’s a parent who had to stay home with their children who were doing e-learning,” said Walker.

Tenants must work with their housing providers to file the application. One Rockford landlord says the help is sorely needed.

“This is a good first step. I think we need to get this money in the hands of everyone who is eligible. But we also need to look at all the gaps in the funding and somehow figure out a way to help those people as well,” said Rockford Apartment Association Director of Legislative Affairs Paul Arena.

Arena says many local property owners will fail if even more action isn’t taken.

“Landlords are reaching the breaking point. Those who have been unpaid have maxed out their credit cards, have used their savings. There’s gonna be nowhere else to go.”

Beginning Tuesday, May 18th, residents who are unable to pay rent can apply for rent and utility relief.

In order to receive financial assistance, tenants must meet all of the following:

  • Household is behind on rent for at least 30 days
  • Household lives in Boone/Winnebago County
  • Household’s total gross income cannot exceed 80% Area Median Income for location
  • Household must have experienced a financial hardship directly — or indirectly — due to the pandemic. Examples include :
    • Being laid off
    • Place of employment has closed
    • Reduction in hours of work
    • Loss of spousal/child support
    • Inability to find work due to COVID-19
    • Having to stay home with children due to closure of day care/school
    • Unable to participate in previous employment due to the workplace’s high risk of severe illness from COVID-19

To apply, visit the application site at: https://portal.neighborlysoftware.com/ERAP-CommunityActionBooneandWinnebagoCountyIL/Participant

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