With eviction ban coming to an end, Illinois residents rely on rent assistance to fight homelessness – NBC Chicago
It’s been said before, but this time it’s probably true: The end of the ban on residential evictions, put in place in the state of Illinois due to the coronavirus pandemic, is near.
After United States Supreme Court shot down the nationwide ban on evictions imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Governor JB Pritzker announced earlier this month that the current statewide ban – the only thing between countless tenants of Illinois and possible homelessness – will end on October 3.
This prompted some tenants and landlords to scramble to apply for federal assistance funding in the last hour.
Compared to other states, Illinois leads the way when it comes to distributing rental assistance funds. But some tenants who now nervously watch the clock told NBC 5 Responds that asking for the money was easier said than done.
Ndemsah Ndemsah found himself in this situation.
As a Chicago taxi driver, Ndemsah said he feels a great sense of pride in helping visitors and residents navigate the city streets. But for the first time since leaving Cameroon 22 years ago, Ndemsah said it was he who needed a boost.
â€œSometimes I wake up at night, I can’t even sleep because I’m worried,â€ Ndemsah said.
Worried about a family to feed and months of rent arrears from his landlord, Ndemsah said he had been off the road for more than a year due to the pandemic. And his bills are piling up.
â€œI have used up my savings, I have used up my 401k that I had,â€ Nedemsah explained. “I’m not standing on anything.”
Ndemsah has reached out for one final lifeline: the Illinois Rent Payment Program, run by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA).
To date, IHDA has paid out over $ 300 million to tenants and landlords. Applicants eligible for the last round of IHDA funding could receive up to $ 25,000 if they qualify.
But first, tenants and landlords have to go through the application itself.
“The money is there, but it is not reaching us,” Ndemsah said. “They don’t give us an easy channel to get money. And that’s essential.”
In Ndemsah’s case, he said his problem was technical in nature. After submitting her application, IHDA asked her for specific documents, such as proof of residence, unemployment status, and documents from her owner.
Ndemsah has all the documents that IHDA needs, but he says he has encountered issues with the IHDA online portal and in particular a way to send the documentation directly to IHDA staff.
The emails he received from the IHDA – and shared with NBC 5 Responds – indicate that his application is incomplete based on these missing documents and therefore will not be considered for this round of support.
Trying to get answers, Ndemsah kept a diary of all the times he tried to call the IHDA for help, sometimes waiting over an hour until he reached a person. on the phone. Each time, he said a representative would assure him that he would receive an email link to download the documents.
But Ndemsah said that link never happened.
It was not just a problem for Ndemsah; its owner also said that the IHDA emails he received did not include a link to download the necessary documentation, although his owner had the information on hand, ready to go.
These are the types of situations that housing advocates cite as an example of how the process can be too complex when it should be easier now.
“Applicants feel that their applications are ending up in a black hole,” said Karla Chrobak, lawyer for the legal aid organization CARPLS. “There were all kinds of documentation requirements that were originally in place that no longer apply.”
Illinois has received funds to help those hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, but much of the money has yet to be dispersed. Lisa Parker of NBC 5 Responds has exclusive insight into why most funds go untapped.
Frustration over shutdown of lease aid pipelines was felt in Washington DC
Last month, the White House, recognizing that the nationwide rent assistance pipeline was too slow, agreed to cut some state red tape and cut some of the rent assistance requirements.
Advocates like Chrobak said rental assistance programs have been slow to update their requirements following the change, but when the changes are made it should help tenants like Ndemsah.
â€œThis rental aid is essential for me,â€ said Ndemsah. “Because without it, I’ll be homeless.”
NBC 5 Responds has reached out to IHDA to ask if their app portal has experienced any delays or issues, but a spokesperson said that was not the case.
Andrew Field of IHDA said only a quarter of the 30,000 rental assistance applications he received are still in limbo and incomplete, like Ndemsah’s for which documents are still required.
In Ndemsah’s case, Field said they received his application and all of his documents, despite what Ndemsah was informed by email and IHDA representatives he spoke to by phone.
But the agency said it was still missing documents from Ndemsah’s owner to complete his application.
The IHDA’s deadline for completing applications is today, September 14, leaving Ndemsah unsure of what the future holds for him and his family.
â€œFor me, getting this money would save me,â€ Ndemsah said. â€œIt would put me to sleep. Makes me feel better. “
The IHDA has announced that it will offer another round of rent assistance funding later this fall, but for now, the application window is closed.
That said, there are still millions of dollars in rent assistance on the table for Illinois tenants and landlords in need.
A similar state housing assistance program called Illinois Housing Help is run by the Illinois Department of Social Services and is still accepting applications.
To learn more about the IDHS program, Click here. Renters without Internet access can call 1-866-ILHELP1