EAST ST. LOUIS — Preparing to end Illinois’ eviction moratorium, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday touted a second round of federal rental relief expected to send a $1.5 billion infusion of cash to landlords and help thousands of tenants catch up on past-due housing bills.
“That’s nearly four times the amount that was available just last year,” Pritzker said during a news conference at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Community Center. “The Illinois Rental Payment Program will ensure more than 120,000 household renters see relief.”
Pritzker was in the Metro East as part of a statewide tour Monday, hours after signing the Illinois bill into law authorizing the program. Much of the new round of funding comes from the second stimulus bill Congress passed in December, though the program also taps federal block grants and some state general revenue, according to the governor’s office.
The expanded rental assistance program comes as Pritzker prepares to end the state’s eviction moratorium in August.
Cash grants of up to $25,000 per tenant will go directly to landlords, covering monthly rent as far back as June and prepaying rent this year through August. Only tenants with past-due rent and household income below 80% of the area median are eligible. The state will prioritize those with incomes below 50% of the median.
“This is a wonderful, wonderful program,” Sen. Christopher Belt, D-Cahokia, said during the event.
The governor and other top state officials urged landlords to apply for the program right away at Illinoishousinghelp.org. The initial application window, which opened Monday, goes until June 7, three weeks away. A later period will allow tenants to initiate the process if their landlords haven’t.
“There’s a great deal of demand out there for it,” he said.
The initial round of rental and mortgage relief allocated over $329 million in federal housing payment grants to more than 56,000 renters and homeowners across Illinois last year. The program designed and implemented by the Illinois Housing Development Authority was “one of the largest emergency housing assistance programs in the entire nation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pritzker said, touting it as an example of good government and claiming Illinois was “the best in the nation at getting relief into the pockets of landlords and homeowners in 2020.”
About $400 million of the $1.5 billion program will be administered by larger cities, according to the governor’s office.
IHDA Executive Director Kristin Faust said it’s hard to say how many Illinois families qualify for assistance, but a recent survey from the Census Bureau estimated about 300,000 households in the state were unsure how they would pay rent in the coming months.
“We think this program will make a good dent in that number,” she said.
The state is enlisting area nonprofits to help connect landlords with tenants, who need to sign paperwork for the grants to come through.
“I know there’s many tenants who may not have spoken with their landlord in quite some time, and many landlords who may be upset with tenants who haven’t been able to pay, so it’s important for us to bring them together for them to talk to one another,” Pritzker said.
East St. Louis nonprofit Community Lifeline had already begun to help renters on Monday, said CEO Wyvetta Granger. She said landlords who need a third-party to help contact tenants, or tenants that need help getting in touch with landlords, are welcome to call the nonprofit at 618-482-2950.
A separate program with another $400 million in mortgage payment assistance, also funded through federal stimulus dollars, is expected to become available over the summer, Pritzker said.
Missouri was allocated about $410 million from the December stimulus. Among the first items legislators sent to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson this year was a law allocating $324 million in those funds for areas outside of larger jurisdictions. St. Louis residents and others can apply through the state program at mohousingresources.com. St. Louis County is administering its own, $30 million program.
Also Monday, Pritzker eased mask and social distancing guidelines for vaccinated adults to mirror federal recommendations released last week.
Masks are still required in health care facilities, public transit, day cares and schools.
“I also support the choice of individuals and businesses to continue to mask out of an abundance of caution,” Pritzker said, “as this pandemic isn’t over yet.”