Illinois expands aid program to help 1 million more residents pay for rent, food, medicine, other essentials

Coronavirus

BELLEVILLE, Ill. — The State of Illinois is expanding eligibility requirements and adding millions to an aid program offering a total of $275 million in grants to people experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19, officials said Monday.

“While we continue to fight to keep Illinois’ people healthy and safe from the virus we must battle the economic pain that it has reaped upon our communities,” Governor JB Pritzker said.

The Illinois budget adds $90 million in federal CARES Act funding that will go towards community assistance programing. Pritzker’s administration also increased the eligibility income threshold up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, the increase will support a monthly income of up to $4,300.  

As a result, officials say about 1 million Illinois residents are now eligible for some kind of assistance.

“That $90 million is in addition to what we are already allocated from the federal government for these programs, for a total investment of $275 million in funding to provide things like rent and food and temporary shelter,” Pritzker said.

Using an online portal at HelpIllinoisfamilies.com, eligible residents can find assistance with utility bills, water bills, food and medicine. 

Critics of the governor’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis have urged him to loosen more restrictions placed on businesses, arguing that’s the fastest way towards economic recovery. But the governor says the phased reopening is working.

“I think we’ve done this well and you see it in the numbers. There was just an announcement in the last couple of days that Illinois has had the largest decrease in COVID-19 cases while other states are spiking and actually having their greatest number of cases reported,” Pritzker said.

The hotel industry wants the governor to allow meeting rooms and ballrooms to reopen at half capacity when the state enters Phase 4. But the governor says he’ll make a decision about that based on what the scientists tell him. 

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