The application period for a new round of financial assistance to renters through the Illinois Housing Development Authority will be delayed one month as the application portal undergoes additional testing, although funding remains available through other state programs.
The latest round of funding, provided by the American Rescue Plan Act signed into law by President Joe Biden earlier this year, includes more than $250 million that IHDA said it expects will help 27,000 Illinois renters. The application window, which was scheduled to open Monday, will now be open from Dec. 6 to Jan. 9.
Amy Lee, a spokeswoman for IHDA, said the delay was due to the department’s efforts to switch to a new application portal for this round of funding.
The new portal was built to accommodate the rental assistance program as well as a yet-to-launch mortgage assistance program, Lee said, but testing conducted Friday night showed it would not likely be able to withstand heavy traffic.
Lee said the department made the decision to push off implementation for a month, rather than roll out the platform that could be subject to crashes or other technical issues.
She said IHDA was working with the vendor, New York-based web development company Unqork, to ensure the dual rental and mortgage platform would be up and running by Dec. 6. A representative for Unqork reached by Capitol News Illinois deferred questions to IHDA.
Despite the delay, rental assistance funding is still available through other state programs run by the Illinois Department of Human Services.
Renters may still be able to access assistance through an IDHS provider agency. A list of provider agencies, as well as organizations helping with utility bills, free legal aid and additional services can be found at illinoisrentalassistance.org.
The court-based program is available to Illinois residents outside of Cook County and applies to those with active eviction cases. Tenants hoping to access the funding can apply for up to 12 months of past-due rent and up to three months of future rent payments using their eviction court case number at ilrpp.ihda.org.
Lee said IHDA did not expect to begin distributing funding from the latest round of assistance until Dec. 13, and that date is unchanged with the latest delay in launching the platform.
“While this delays the date we’ll begin accepting applications, IHDA is committed to meeting the original timeline of disbursing rental assistance money to tenants and landlords in December,” IHDA Executive Director Kristin Faust said in a news release. “We recognize this postponement may cause concern for tenants facing eviction, but there is help for renters available now.”
Lee also said she did not have a date as to when the mortgage assistance program would be available, noting the state submitted its plan to the U.S. Treasury but has thus far not received final approval.
In the first round of the Illinois Rental Payment Program that launched in May, IHDA approved more than 57,000 applications and paid out nearly $540 million, bringing the total money disbursed to more than $776 million since the pandemic began.
To be eligible for rental assistance, a renter must live in Illinois and the rental property must be a primary residence, the household must have experienced a financial hardship due to the pandemic and have an unpaid rent balance, and a household’s income must be below 80 percent of the Area Median Income.