By Bénédicte Yenyi Mulumba
CHAMPAIGN – As the pandemic unfolds, the new Emergency Rent Assistance (ERA) program launched by the RPC is helping champaign county residents who are low-income and those who have been laid off from work to pay their rents.
The program was launched on Feb. 5, and will go on until the funding is exhausted or by Dec. 31, the latest, said Lisa Benson, the community services director of RPC.
The program assists renters in Champaign County who meet the eligibility criteria. To be eligible, renters must: demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability, have a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median, and/or qualify for unemployment or have experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19.
Income qualifications are broken down as followed: a household of one person with an Annual Income Limit (AIL) of $46,850 is qualified; a household of two persons with an AIL of $53,550 is also eligible. For every addition to the household, the applicant has to add $6,700 to see if they are qualified, for instance, a household of three persons will be “$53,550 + $6,700 = $60,250”, and so on.
Individuals who have received the state unemployment benefits in the last 90 days and those with an income at or below 50 percent of the area median will be the prioritized beneficiaries of this program. Their applications will be processed 45 days from the date of their submission. Household income between 50-80 percent of the area media will be considered for payment in late April or May.
However, rent arrears assistance amount will neither exceed $8,000 nor 80 percent of Median Family Income (MFI). Payment will be made via check mailed to the applicant’s landlord to pay rent arrears, Benson said.
Department of Treasury has provided $6.2 million for the ERA program, Benson said. RPC learned about the opportunity on Jan. 6, and requested funding the next day. The program is not covering rents only, but past-due bills like power, water, and sewer also.
The screening process started on Feb. 9, and applicants are required to call the service to make an appointment prior to walking to the facility to promote safety during the pandemic.
Once scheduled, applicants are required to provide an identification card; A copy of their lease (or a letter from their landlord confirming their status as a renter); Copies of all their most recent past-due bills from April 2020 until today; The name, phone number and email of their landlords; Proof of income such as a copy of tax year 2020 form1040 as filed with the IRS for the household or copy of the last 60 days of income for all household members. If requested, the applicant might also be required to provide proof that she/he has received unemployment payments in the 90 days prior to their application appointment. Printout of weekly Illinois Department of Employment Securities (IDES) payments for a household member for the 90 days prior to their application appointment.
RPC is working on many other projects such as educational scholarship opportunities to alleviate the burden brought by the pandemic.