The Daily Northwestern’s rent relief guide


Illustration by Catherine Buchaniec

In response to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Open Communities will help residents register for up to 15 months of county-subsidized rent relief, plus utility relief, until April 2.

Illinois’ statewide eviction moratorium will expire on May 1, after which residents will be responsible for making up any payments missed during the moratorium period. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published new guidelines recommending that a federal eviction moratorium continue in all U.S. states and territories until June 30, from a previous deadline of March 31. Evanston, Cook County and the state are offering varying forms of rent relief dedicated to helping residents clear their debts. All programs are set to forgive up to twelve months of missed payments, three months of future payments and some utilities assistance. This guide includes rent assistance programs for which Evanston residents are eligible.


In February, the city began accepting applications for a COVID-19 rent assistance program through which residents could receive assistance for up to six months of past-due rent. The program was open to residents in sections of the 2nd, 5th, 8th and 9th wards who didn’t already receive Section 8 or other housing subsidies. The first wave of the program was open for application for two weeks but has since been closed. It is unclear whether the city opened or closed the second phase of the program, which would disburse remaining funds to residents of the 2nd and 4th wards with small landlords. 

Cook County Emergency Rent Relief Program

Under Cook County’s Emergency Rent Relief program, residents can apply to receive up to $15,000 of aid and assistance with one utility. Residents qualify for aid based on household income and the demonstrated impact of COVID-19 on their household finances. The deadline for the program has been extended to  5 p.m. on April 9. Dozens of community organizations, including fair housing nonprofit Open Communities, are available to help residents navigate the application process. The Emergency Rent Relief program is the only county-run rent program currently available, with state-based and Chicago-based versions set to drop later in April and May.

Illinois Rental Payment Program

The Illinois Rental Payment Program will award federally funded grants of up to $25,000 to residents who make less than 80 percent of the area median household income and who are in danger of homelessness or housing instability. The program is organized by the Illinois Housing Development Authority, which also ran similar programs back in 2020. Grants will be paid by check directly to the landlord and cover rent only, not utilities. Cook County and Chicago residents can apply to both the ILRPP and the ERA. Eligibility markers could include loss of child support and workplace closure, according to the IHDA. Applicants are not required to show a social security number nor proof of immigration status.

Illinois Department of Human Services program

A second state program will launch in April or May to provide assistance with rent and “limited” utilities, according to the IDHS. There is no maximum assistance individuals can receive. Illinois residents who are referred by a DHS partner, meet the eligibility criteria, and rent their home are eligible. Individuals cannot apply on their own without a referral. The program isn’t fully finalized as of April 1, but will launch in late April or May.

Don’t see a rent relief program listed? Write to us at [email protected].

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @delaneygnelson

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