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KANKAKEE — The City of Kankakee’s Economic and Community Development Agency was selected by Housing Action Illinois to participate in a new initiative with AmeriCorps VISTA to build the agency’s capacity for housing counseling programs.

Kankakee is one of five cities selected through a region-wide application process and will host two AmeriCorps members for the full 2022 calendar year.

Frequently described as “the domestic Peace Corps,” AmeriCorps members serve as full-time volunteers for summer or full-year terms in many of America’s nonprofits, faith-based, and community organizations.

Participants will receive a living allowance, housing stipend, and transportation assistance, and will be eligible for forbearance from most federally guaranteed student loans during their service. After their service year, members are eligible for the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award that can repay qualified student loans or current educational expenses.

“ECDA is looking to expand our offerings and provide a broader variety of housing counseling services to the community,” ECDA Executive Director Barbi Brewer-Watson said. “This opportunity will help us across the finish line with our strategic goal of becoming a HUD Certified Housing Counseling Agency.”

ECDA has provided housing counseling and homebuyer education classes for the past four years to city residents as part of its Kankakee Homebuyers Incentive Program, according to a press release.

The two AmeriCorps members chosen for service with the city will help ECDA grow through program design and implementation, curriculum development, and organizing a volunteer housing counseling program.

“Our AmeriCorps members will enable us to start providing rental counseling and foreclosure counseling, both critical services for our community now that the state’s eviction moratorium has ended,” ECDA Compliance Officer Jonathan Shinabarger said. “We’re thrilled about the opportunity to work with service-minded people to kick-start this work.”

Kankakee Mayor Chris Curtis said participation in the program will “open the door” for the city to be able to apply for additional funding from HUD.

“Ultimately this will provide more housing opportunities and growth and will enhance our public safety through the stabilization of our neighborhoods,” he said.

Applications are currently being accepted for the two service members. They are due Dec. 17. To apply, visit ecda.citykankakee-il.gov.

For additional information, contact the city’s ECDA at yourvoice@citykankakee-il.gov.