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Rent Relief Is A Life Saver For Chicago Apartment Renters

Imagine if you are a single, full-time college student who is working a part-time job to pay apartment rent and make ends meet.

Suddenly, you get laid off from your restaurant job as a result of the COVID-virus pandemic, and can’t pay the $1,195 rent on your one-bedroom apartment in a clean, but basic walk-up building on the North Side.

The landlord is sympathetic to the renter’s financial plight because March 1, 2022 will be the first month the tenant cannot pay her rent on a one-year lease that started last September.

However, the building’s owner has his own financial commitments—mortgage payments, utility and maintenance costs and hefty real estate taxes.

Luckily Tammy Johnson (not her real name), the savvy, young female renter, who currently is in training for a new job, heard about “Rent Relief,” an emergency federal rental assistance program administered by Chicago’s Family & Support Services and the city Department of Housing.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) provides funds to assist households unable to pay rent and/or utilities due to the on-going pandemic.

The federal American Rescue Plan Act, passed in December of 2020, allocated $25 billion to emergency rental assistance (ERA1). Then, the $1.9 trillion stimulus package approved in March of 2021 set aside $21.55 billion (ERA2), resulting in a total of more than $46 billion available to apartment tenants that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

Funds are provided directly to states, local governments, territories and Native American tribes to administer to eligible households through rental assistance programs. An eligible household may receive up to 12 months of assistance, plus an additional three months if needed, depending on the availability of funds.

Applications for emergency rental assistance may be submitted by either the tenant or landlord on behalf of that tenant through programs established by grantees.

In general, the money will be paid directly to landlords and utility providers. If an owner doesn’t want to participate, funds may be paid to the renter.

Currently, more than 19 states, counties and cities—including Chicago—use Rent Relief, a software service, to manage more than $1.5 billion in funding.

As of late 2021, the city of Chicago has assisted more than 8,600 households with rent and utility payments through ERAP funds. The average rental assistance payment is $8,900, and the average utility assistance is $800 per applicant.

First, the renter applies for the program, is pre-qualified and is given a case number. Chicago’s small “Ma-and-Pa” apartment building owners likely will need a bit of computer savvy to fill out the landlord side of the Rent Relief application, and scan and upload the following necessary documents:

  • The apartment lease. Today, most computer literate landlords use the standard Chicago Residential Lease, drafted by the Chicago Association of Realtors.

  • Recent property tax bill. This document shows that the landlord owns the property and is current with real estate taxes.

  • IRS Form W-9. This document will provide the landlord’s Social Security or Employer Identification Number (EIN), so Uncle Sam will be able to track and tax the rent.

  • A brief letter outlining how many rent payments are due the landlord.

“My brief phone chat with Sabrina, the Rent Relief administrator, was helpful, just to make sure all information was inputted correctly in the application,” said Ms. Johnson’s landlord. “Hopefully, Tammy’s March rent will arrive soon.”

For an application and answers to questions, call Rent Relief at 833-543-0931, or visit:\allchicago.

For more housing news, visit Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit


“The book is Escaping Condo Jail by Sara Benson and Don DeBat. I would say that anybody thinking about buying a condo, or even anybody serving on a condo board, or anybody who has any connection to a condo, this is must reading—all 600 and something pages. Thanks a lot for a great book!”


Steve Sanders, “Your Money Matters” WGN TV, December 22, 2014

By Don DeBat

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