Administration Urges Low-Income Households to Take Advantage of More Than $180 Million in Funding Still Available Through State’s Energy Assistance Program; Local CURE Program Still Open to Provide Emergency Cost Reimbursement for Cities and Towns
CHICAGO—Governor JB Pritzker today announced the administration has provided over $1.3 billion in funding this year for businesses and families through COVID-19 emergency assistance programs. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has so far overseen the distribution of $214 million in funding to over 7,500 small businesses through the Business Interruption Grants program, with the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) providing more than $269 million in funding to 4,987 childcare providers through the same program. DCEO also oversees the Help for Illinois Families Initiative which includes programs that offer energy assistance to Illinois residents in need as well as emergency assistance for rent, temporary shelter and other necessities. The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) has provided $325 million in emergency rental and mortgage assistance to 54,500 families.
"Over the summer, in partnership with the General Assembly, I announced a series of programs dedicated to supporting our small businesses and our working families hit hard by the economic impacts of COVID-19 – and structuring each with a significant on equity, ensuring that disproportionately impacted communities receive their fair share of support," said Governor JB Pritzker. "I'm especially proud to say Illinois led the nation in ensuring that our CARES dollars went to the front lines of the economic dislocation impacting the lives of the people we serve. From housing assistance to grants for small business impacted by the virus, the efforts launched by my administration amount to a unique and historic effort in Illinois to mitigate this virus's devastating effects on the health and livelihoods of the residents of this state. While there is so much need that is still unmet and for which we need further support from Congress, Illinois has been a leader in protecting workers and small businesses with our CARES Act dollars."
Help for Illinois Families Program
As of today, DCEO has provided $93 million in emergency funding to more than 155,000 households across the state through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Community Services Block Grants (CSBG) programs, which are both part of the Help for Illinois Families initiative. Launched by the administration in June, the $275 million initiative was created to assist the growing number of families experiencing economic hardship as a result of COVID-19 by directing additional funding from the federal CARES Act and an expanded eligibility threshold to ensure more families statewide could benefit from assistance on utilities and other basic household bills.
"Given the enormous economic challenges facing many in our state as a result of COVID-19, state programs like Help for Illinois Families are being provided to help residents across our communities make ends meet," said DCEO Director Erin Guthrie. "Under Governor Pritzker's leadership, DCEO is proud that we've made record investments to serve more families this year, as part of more than $1 billion in aid launched so support communities in the wake of the crisis. For those still struggling– it's not too late to apply, and we encourage that families in need reach out to DCEO or our community agency partners for help with basic household needs that may currently be out of reach."
As a result of the Governor's investments in this program, more than$80 million has been provided to 119,000 households for LIHEAP, with more than$13 million in direct client assistance costs provided to 36,000 households as part of the CSBG program. Funding has been provided to families in all 102 counties statewide, with tens of thousands of new households served so far this program year.
The Pritzker administration worked with the General Assembly to expand the program's eligibility requirements to boost the income eligibility threshold to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, making an additional 1 million residents eligible for the program. The administration also adjusted requirements to LIHEAP to make it possible for undocumented families to receive assistance through the program for the first time.
"Since the pandemic has begun, CEDA has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of individuals seeking help with making ends meet," said Harold Rice, Jr., Chief Executive Officer and President, CEDA. "Thankfully, the Governor's Help for Illinois Families program recognizes the urgent needs our neighbors face as they struggle to pay bills, and provides critical assistance that will allow them to provide for their families and rebuild. We remain committed to ensuring every family has peace of mind during these challenging times."
While many have already benefitted, the administration is urging families to claim the more than $180 million which remains available to help offset costs on heating, utilities, water, rent, food and other forms of basic assistance. To make applying for relief funding easy, DCEO has taken steps to streamline the process, providing a new virtual application process, technical assistance and other infrastructure that allows residents to complete the application from the comfort of their home. A new Help for Illinois Families hotline launched earlier this year offers assistance in over 30 languages, and CAAs provide services in a variety of languages to ensure access for all communities.
"The Champaign County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC) has certainly been on the frontlines of assisting families and individuals during this COVID -19 pandemic utilizing the Governor's Help for Illinois Families programs," said Dalitso Sulamoyo, Chief Executive Officer of CCRPC. "Our staff have applied a combination of approaches to be able to reach many families and individuals who have not sought our assistance in the past so that they get the help they desperately need during this challenging moment of our history. We are appreciative of Governor Pritzker's leadership in ensuring that Illinois's families and individuals are able to get the help they need."
This program remains open and is accepting applications. For more information on how to apply and to find out about relief programs available near you, please visit www.helpillinoisfamilies.com today.
Business Interruption Grants
The Business Interruption Grant (BIG) program is a $540 million initiative Governor Pritzker developed in partnership with the Illinois General Assembly to provide economic relief for small businesses hit hardest by COVID-19. BIG is the largest program of its kind in the nation and uses federal CARES Act funds to provide grants to businesses in need. The program devotes $270 million for childcare businesses, and $270 million for all other small businesses demonstrating a significant impact or limited ability to operate during the pandemic.
DCEO, which oversaw the small business portion of the BIG program, recently concluded the second round of applications for grant funding. To date, the department has issued more than $214 million in grants to over 7,500 businesses statewide, using an equity framework to ensure that the hardest hit businesses in the hardest hit geographies would be prioritized for funding. As a result, grants have been deployed to a wide range of businesses representing more than 500 cities across the state, with nearly half of the grants provided to minority owned businesses, $98 million for restaurants and taverns, and nearly $80 million for downstate businesses. Moreover, the program has helped direct funding for the smallest and most vulnerable businesses in the state, with 85 percent committed to the smallest sized businesses, those with revenues of $1 million or less.
DCEO continues to review applications for the program and will make grants weekly over the next several weeks. BIG applicants will be notified if they will receive a grant award by December 30, 2020. More information on the DCEO program can be found here: https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/SmallBizAssistance/pages/c19disadvantagedbusgrants.aspx.
As part of the broader BIG program, IDHS facilitated the release of $270 million in funding to aid child care providers across the state through the Child Care Restoration Grants (CCRG). The grants leveraged funds received by the state from the CARES Act, making Illinois the only state to dedicate this level of federal aid for child care programs.
"Under the bold and compassionate leadership of Governor Pritzker, one of our administration's top priorities is investment in early childhood programs and the workforce that powers it – child care providers, teachers, and other caregivers. Providing support to these essential workers is critical to our economic recovery and getting families back to work. Thousands of children and families will benefit from the BIG grants. We will continue to work alongside DCEO, to help childcare businesses across the state get every dollar possible to help rebuild after an unprecedented pandemic," said Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Grace Hou.
Beginning in March, the majority of child care programs closed due to COVID-19, with the exception of providers who served the children of essential workers. The CCRG program offered relief to child care programs, with priority given to child care businesses serving disproportionately impacted areas.
"Operating a child care center during a pandemic has been difficult on many levels. The extra expenses we are incurring (cleaning supplies, PPE, extra staffing expenses), combined with a lowered capacity, make an already tight budget even tighter. We are thankful for the Child Care Restoration Grant," said Chris Gansauer of Magic Building Block Child Care Center in Fairview Heights.
IDHS has released a total of $270 million in grant funding to nearly five thousand child-care providers located across the state. All outstanding BIG grantee applications will receive notification regarding potential funding by December 30, 2020.
"The grant worked well for me because it allowed me to continue to pay my assistant and keep my day care opened during these very low attendance months I am having due to COVID-19. I was able to continue my day to day operation without having to worry about closing down and losing my home or car due to inadequate income," said home child care provider Monica Pierce.
Emergency Housing Assistance
In August, Governor Pritzker and IHDA announced two programs to help renters and homeowners who have lost a job or income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the Emergency Rental Assistance and Emergency Mortgage Assistance Programs, IHDA allocated $325 million to help income-eligible residents across the state pay their rent or mortgage during the pandemic.
"Stable housing is essential to help Illinois families stay safe during this crisis, and IHDA remains committed to providing this critical support to the families and communities who have been hit hardest by the pandemic," said IHDA Executive Director Kristin Faust. "Under the leadership of the Pritzker administration, IHDA mobilized to disburse these funds as equitably and as quickly as possible to provide much needed security against eviction and foreclosure, and we will continue to work diligently to help struggling households access this assistance before the end of 2020."
Through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERA), IHDA offered funding to support Illinois tenants unable to pay their rent due to a COVID-19-related loss of income. Eligible tenants whose applications were approved received a one-time grant of $5,000 paid directly to their landlord to cover missed rent payments beginning March 2020, as well as prepay on payments through this month, or until the $5,000 is exhausted. IHDA received nearly 79,000 applications for the program and assisted 38,000 households with rental payments.
IHDA also aided homeowners who experienced a COVID-19 related loss of income resulting in past due mortgage balances starting in March 2020. The Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (EMA) provided eligible homeowners with up to $25,000 in grants paid directly to their mortgage servicer. The assistance provided covered the homeowner's past due or forbearance balance and their regular mortgage payments through the end of this month, or until the funding was exhausted. IHDA received more than 18,000 applications and to date have assisted about 9,500 homeowners with $84 million total in grants. Applications for both programs have closed and repayment is not required.
Financial assistance for both housing programs was funded through Illinois' allocation of federal Coronavirus Relief Funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136). Passed in March 2020, the CARES Act provided $3.5 billion in Coronavirus Relief Funds to the State of Illinois to help residents and businesses impacted by the pandemic. In May, the Illinois General Assembly directed this funding to IHDA to provide direct assistance to struggling renters and homeowners.
Local CURE Program
The Pritzker administration worked with the Illinois General Assembly and local government partners to launch the Local Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency (CURE) program, aimed at leveraging federal CARES Act dollars to help municipalities reimburse costs incurred during the ongoing pandemic.
To date, more than $158 million has been paid out or is in the pipeline to help over 700 downstate communities cover the costs of COVID-19. This funding provides an essential boost, with funds that can be used for: PPE, payroll, contact tracing and other emergency public health expenses. Reimbursable expenses must be incurred between March 1 – December 30, 2020.
While a significant amount of payments have been made to date, much more funding remains available, and nearly 350 local governments have yet to claim their allotted costs. DCEO is working to support the remainder of cities and towns with submitting eligible costs through the program and has facilitated over 4,000 direct calls and emails to assist local leaders and to get the word out about the program. As a result of extensive outreach and technical assistance, payments to local governments through the program have more than doubled in the last month alone.
It's not too late to claim costs through this program. The state of Illinois and DCEO continue to urge local governments to take advantage of their allocation and to leave no costs on the table. The program will continue accepting applications for eligible expenses through January 31, 2020. For more on Local CURE and to determine eligibility, please visit: https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/Pages/CURE.aspx.