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McHenry County to use $9 million in federal aid for rental, utility assistance for those experiencing pandemic-related financial hardship

McHenry County is creating a program to disburse more than $9 million in federal aid to qualified renters unable to pay their rent or utilities because of financial hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the county said in a news release.

The McHenry County Board unanimously approved Tuesday evening the creation of the McHenry County Emergency Utility and Rental Assistance Program, which is to distribute $9.12 million allocated to the county through the COVID-19 stimulus bill signed into law Dec. 27, according to the release. The progarm is expected to up and running by early to mid-March.

The program aims to reduce or eliminate pandemic-related evictions, prevent homelessness, avoid damaged credit that could hurt future housing opportunities for renters, and repair landlord and tenant relationships strained because of lack of payment, according to the release. Landlords as well as tenants can apply for assistance.

“While restrictions on our businesses and lifestyles continue to loosen, and while more and more people get vaccinated against COVID-19 with each passing day, we can’t for one moment allow ourselves to forget the economic havoc that the pandemic has wreaked on households,” County Board Chairman Michael Buehler, R-Crystal Lake, said in the release. “People throughout the county have fallen behind on their rent or utility bills as a result, and this program offers them a direct lifeline.”

Under the program, renters suffering financial hardship can qualify for assistance up to six months in arrears, and up to three months in advance. Awarded funds are paid directly to the landlord or the utility company.

Qualifying households must be at or below 80% of their area median income, but households at 50% or lower or that include dependents or seniors 62 years and older will get priority, according to the release. They also must be able to demonstrate a loss of income or employment as a result of COVID-19. Immigration status is not a factor in determining eligibility.

The McHenry County Housing Authority will act as the chief review agency for submitted applications, and Home of the Sparrow will serve as a navigator to assist families with children in accessing the program. The Community Development Division of the McHenry County Department of Planning and Development will serve as the lead agency.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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