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Watch now: Illinois exhausts initial $500 million in rent relief, more funds to be available soon

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Rodrigo Carrillo, director of strategic initiatives and planning for the Illinois Housing Development Authority, says the state will finish reviewing rental assistance applications ahead of the eviction moratorium's expiration on Oct. 3.

"While there's a national negative narrative of states aren't getting their money out, we're very proud that Illinois is doing the opposite," Carrillo said. "We are getting the funds to those in need."

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SPRINGFIELD — More than three weeks after the expiration of the state's eviction moratorium, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday that all of the initial $500 million allocation of rental relief has been distributed while a new round of assistance will be available early next month

Pritzker, at a press conference in Springfield, said that more than 57,000 applications for rental assistance have now been funded in 2021, with an average of more than $9,000 going to each applicant. This is on top of more than $230 million in rental assistance distributed in 2020.

Pritzker Springfield

Gov. J.B. Pritzker discusses the state's emergency rental assistance program in Springfield on Wednesday.

"I came into the governor's office with a promise to rebuild and revitalize Illinois' social services sector, which had been decimated under the budget crisis of my predecessor," Pritzker said. "That begins with doing everything possible so that Illinoisans can find an affordable home and stay there. Even with all the challenges of the pandemic, we are delivering on that promise." 

And according to a U.S. Treasury Department report released Monday, Illinois dispersed 84% of its initial allotment of aid as of Sept. 30, the highest rate in the country. The national average was just 46%. 

The federally-funded relief can be used to cover up to 15 months of rent payments. The maximum an applicant can receive through the state program is $25,000.

Those eligible include households earning 80% or less of the median income in their county, at risk of homelessness and experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. 

The assistance took on an added importance with the expiration of the eviction moratorium, which had shielded thousands of renters from being thrown to the streets due to economic hardship stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The situation has gotten better as more assistance has gotten out the door.

A survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau last week found that about 80,000 Illinoisans were likely to face eviction in the next two months, down from more than 120,000 in September. 

Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary Grace Hou said Wednesday that eviction filings in the state were "modest as compared to pre-pandemic levels” but that the department was "prepared and committed to meet the need if there’s an increase in these filings.”

To help those still in need, a new round of rental assistance, utilizing funds from the American Rescue Plan, will open to applicants on Nov. 8. About $400 million is earmarked for this round of assistance. 

Despite some evidence of the pandemic waning, advocates said that the new round of relief is needed as winter approaches. 

State Rep. Delia Rameriz, D-Chicago, rhetorically asked, "Could you imagine what would have happened had we not acted as fast as we did" to disperse nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in rental assistance?

"We prevented homelessness and we can do this together again and again and be a national leader as we have been," Ramirez said. 

Beyond the Illinois Rental Payment Program, the Illinois Supreme Court has also launched a court-based rental assistance program and several county courts have set up mediation programs meant to mitigate a surge in evictions.

More information can be found on rental assistance can be found at illinoisrentalassistance.org/.

Bishop says no communion for Biden

Bishop Thomas Paprocki, of the Diocese of Springfield, said Tuesday that he would not permit President Joe Biden to receive Holy Communion if the president were to attend Mass within the diocese. 

Paprocki, at the Illinois Capitol to urge lawmakers not to repeal the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act, fielded questions from reporters over his much-publicized stance of denying communion to pro-choice politicians like Sen. Dick Durbin. 

Biden, the second Roman Catholic U.S. president, regularly attends Mass but also supports abortion rights, bringing the politically-fraught topic to the center of the national debate. 

Pope Francis weighed in on the topic last month, saying that he had never denied communion to anyone and seemed to issue a warning to bishops weighing into politics.

Paprocki, however, said his hardline stance was in line with the Holy Father's. 

"So his message is one that I think is very strong about the wrongdoing of abortion but also strong that we are called to protect human life," Paprocki said. "And if someone, a politician, for example, takes a position contrary to that, we should accompany that person, walk with them. In other words, we should talk to them. That's the reason we're here now to have dialogue with our state legislators to let them know that it is our position as Christian leaders that this is against God's law to do that and we call them to have a change of heart."

Specifically on Biden, Paprocki said that somebody "obstinately persisting a manifest grave sin ... should not go to Holy Communion." 

Electric vehicle incentives emerge 

Pritzker is pushing a package of tax credits and incentives​ to encourage the development of the electric vehicle industry in the state.

House Bill 1769, known as the "Reimagining Electric Vehicles in Illinois Act," was filed by state Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, on Monday.

Organized labor has not yet signed off on the legislation, which means it might not get done this week and could be punted to January.  

Pritzker said it was "important for us to be competitive" in the EV realm as other states put together similar packages. The governor said the state would not aim to offer the most incentives, but enough to leverage the state's strategic advantages in workforce development and location.  

"We try to bring all those things together with some EDGE credits in order to put a package forward that's attractive," Pritzker said. "Let me tell you, we are getting incoming calls because people have heard that not only did we pass a great climate package, but also that we're looking at passing an electric vehicle stimulus package that will bring literally tens of billions of dollars to the state of Illinois and thousands and thousands of new jobs in a new industry we want to be a leader in."

Illinois has become a center for EV production in the United States with automaker Rivian making Normal the site of most of its North American manufacturing. 

Pritzker signed landmark clean energy legislation in September that includes a $4,000 subsidy for purchasing electric vehicles and provides a roadmap for building out the state’s EV infrastructure. The legislation sets a goal of having 1 million electric vehicles on the road in Illinois by 2030.


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