The Chicago Department of Housing (DOH) announced the close of its fourth round of direct emergency rental assistance to renters and landlords financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through two rounds of assistance in 2020 and two rounds of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) in 2021 and 2022, the City has provided over 30,000 households with over $170 million in direct rent and utility payments, exhausting currently available funds not reserved for court-based assistance or stabilization services.
“The pandemic has prompted and exacerbated many challenges facing our residents, one of which is the ability to pay rent and bills,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “Through ERAP, the City was able to ease some of their burdens and give them the breathing room they deserve to get back on their feet and recover from the economic fallout of COVID-19. I am proud that our Department of Housing was able to offer this kind of support in a time when our residents needed it the most.”
ERAP2 included $102 million from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and provided up to 18 months of rental assistance and utility payment assistance for impacted renters. Both rounds of ERAP prioritized households earning less than 50% of the area median income (AMI) or $46,600 for a family of four. During the December 2021 application period, DOH received over 15,000 new applications for assistance as fallout from COVID-19 shutdowns continued to put financial strains on residents.
While DOH is discontinuing application processing, it will continue court-based ERAP (C- ERAP) within the Cook County eviction court system with the Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt’s Early Resolution Program initiative. Through C-ERAP, tenants and landlords are referred after a court assessment to apply for ERAP2 assistance. Court-based ERAP can provide up to 18 months of rental payments and was designed to capture
“For the past two years, the Department of Housing has not only focused on our mission of expanding housing choice and access across the entire City for all Chicagoans but also ensured that our most vulnerable residents were able to remain safely in their homes in these unprecedented times,” said DOH Commissioner Marisa Novara. “As we shift our efforts toward creating long-term programs and services to assist renters, we are proud that we were able to keep so many tenants stably housed, keep the lights on and keep property owners solvent.”
DOH opened applications for ERAP2 last December as the Department 100% obligated $79.8 million received from the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021, enacted in December 2020. Under the U.S. Treasury guidelines, 65% of these funds needed to be obligated by September 30. In meeting that deadline and fully obligating all its ERAP1 funds, the City of Chicago outperformed national averages, according to a dashboard updated by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
This trend continued as DOH obligated over 50% of ERAP2 funds by March 29, 2022, and received an additional $1.5 million of reappropriated funds from the US Treasury.
The Resurrection Project (TRP) provided case management services to administer the funds for ERAP1 and ERAP2 through an online platform designed by Unqork. More than a dozen delegate agencies also provided in-person services to assist residents with limited access to technology and ensure that those in need were informed of available assistance.
“Since its founding in 1990, The Resurrection Project (TRP) has not only impacted communities that it serves but the city as a whole,” said Raul I. Raymundo, CEO of The Resurrection Project. “TRP was proud to partner with the City of Chicago to award over $150 million to over 18,000 households who needed emergency housing assistance during this crisis and prevent further hardship. “
ERAP2 represented the City’s fourth round of direct rental grants since the onset of the pandemic. In March 2020, DOH opened its first rental assistance program funded with $2 million from its Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund, providing 2,000 one-time grants of $1,000 to assist renters. The department received over 83,000 applications for this first round.
Through this program, DOH and DFSS provided over $33 million in assistance to over 10,000 households. In addition to direct financial relief, DOH has provided eviction counseling for low-and moderate-income Chicagoans and authored and passed several ordinances, including the COVID-19 Eviction Protection Ordinance and the Fair Notice Act, to protect renters.
In addition to court-based ERAP assistance through the end of the year, DOH recently announced the service providers for a three-year Right To Counsel (RTC) Pilot Program. Supported by $8 million of ERAP2 funds and launching later this year, RTC will provide legal representation at no cost to eligible low-income tenants at risk of or subject to eviction or lockout in Chicago. The RTC Pilot Program services will be provided through two legal aid groups, one led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing alongside Legal Aid Chicago and the Coordinated Advice and Referral Program for Legal Services (CARPLS); and the other through Beyond Legal Aid, both selected through a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued by DOH in November 2021. Both contracts will be awarded on a one-year basis, renewable for up to two additional years, at the discretion of the City based on the respondent’s performance.