Kane votes to accept nearly $16M in federal rental assistance

Officials will seek to have Illinois administer rental funds to Kane residents

GENEVA – The Kane County Board voted Tuesday to authorize and accept nearly $16 million in federal funding for Emergency Rental Assistance program related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While agreeing to make an application to receive the funds, the bigger plan is to have an intergovernmental agreement with the state of Illinois to deliver the program to Kane residents on the county’s behalf.

“We have determined that the county does not have the capacity to stand up this program on its own,” Community Reinvestment Director Scott Berger said.

“You can imagine the rigor of taking applications from thousands of households, reviewing those applications for eligibility and suitability, ensuring there’s not a duplication of benefit under other programs would present a very arduous and time-consuming staff-intensive task,” Berger said.

Kane County has 45,000 renter-occupied households, a quarter of all the households in the county. A third to half are delinquent to some degree, with an estimated 15,000 to 22,000 in need of rent assistance, Berger said.

The estimated number of households that could be served in Kane County with the nearly $16 million is about 2,800, Berger said.

“Which is why – thankfully – the state will provide additional rent assistance to our renter community under their ERA (Emergency Rental Assistance) allocation,” Berger said.

“Obviously, there are a lot of details that need to be pinned down before any sort of the state-county partnership could be established,” Berger said. “We would work with Mr. Sanchez and his committee to discuss those details with the idea of bringing forth a recommendation on how best to proceed. We do not have a back-up alternative to simply working in partnership with the state of Illinois.”

Berger was referring to Board member Jarett Sanchez, D-Carpentersville.

The county would receive the funds within three weeks, giving officials time to put the intergovernmental agreement details together, Berger said.

“Accepting this money is a no-brainer,” Board member Michael Kenyon, R-South Elgin, said. “Our people are stressed by the need for food, the need for shelter, the need for employment. So get one leg of that milk stool solid will give them a place to live. I’m so glad that something like this is happening… it’s positive.”

Board Chairwoman Corinne Pierog agreed, saying most of those unemployed at home now are women because their children are not able to attend school due to the pandemic.

“There is a large impact upon our communities and this program will be beneficial to keep our families and our children safe in their homes,” Pierog said. “And also to shore up what could possibly be a big foreclosure rate here in Kane County for our landlords – they have to pay mortgages as well. So that stress would certainly be relieved.”

With the ongoing moratorium on evictions, landlords and potentially their lenders are put at a disadvantage and could suffer a financial hit as tenants cannot pay their rent, Berger said.

“The Emergency Rental Assistance Program – as the name implies – is targeted to households with rent. And it is the federal government’s effort, in essence, to shore up a key sector of the housing industry, specifically the rental sector,” Berger said.

“The state agency that is expected to deliver the state-wide program under this initiative is the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the state’s housing finance agency,” Berger said. “We have worked closely with that agency over the years and enjoyed a partnership with them over multiple initiatives. And I’m happy to report that they have a solid track record in administering this type of assistance in programming throughout the state and within Kane County.”

The program is aimed at helping the lower income households, he said.

The highest priority would be households at or below $45,400 and second priority would be households at not more than $72,800, he said.

The Treasury Department is making rental assistance funds available to cities and counties with populations above 200,000, with Illinois receiving just under $835 million, Berger said.

Illinois has 10 counties and one city that qualify based on population, and are offered the opportunity to receive a portion of the state’s allocation directly from the Treasury Department, Berger said.

Kane County, with 532,000 residents, received notice of its eligibility last week, with the deadline to apply for funding at midnight Jan. 13, Berger said.