By Niya K. Kelly
Director of State Legislative Policy, Equity and Transformation
Because of COVID-19, the Illinois legislative session was cut short this spring. Our legislative agenda shifted to making sure that our providers and people experiencing homelessness are equipped with the funding and services to make it through this trying and unique time.
Returning to Springfield this week, the General Assembly had a short priority list of bills to take up. These included the Fair Tax ballot measure language, voting modifications for the upcoming presidential election, and of course, the state budget for Fiscal Year 2021. Legislators approved a $40 billion state budget by early Sunday, May 24.
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) advocates for multiple line items in the state budget, including Homelessness Prevention, Emergency and Transitional Housing, Permanent Supportive Housing and Homeless Youth. Our goal was to ensure no cuts to the above line items and to provide additional funding from the federal CARES Act and Coronavirus Relief Fund for rental assistance, mortgage relief, and funding for service providers.
CCH advocacy included making sure service providers:
- could continue to decompress their shelters and house people in hotels and permanent housing,
- provide hazard pay for their staff,
- and, as we enter a new world, funding for expanded rapid rehousing with services for people leaving hotels so that they do not return to homelessness.
Through the advocacy of service providers reaching out to their legislators, people with lived experience, and the work of State Rep. Delia Ramirez and State Sen. Robert Peters (both D-Chicago), each line item will remain at level funding in the new fiscal year that begins July 1.
We also were able to secure $396 million in funding for housing assistance, with the funds to be managed by the Illinois Housing Development Authority. The General Assembly allocated $1.5 billion to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) to be used in the response to COVID-19, with $100 million allocated to the Illinois Department of Human Services.
The Budget Implementation bill provides that the Governor can direct funds to the State Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency (State CURE) Fund or to the Local Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency (Local CURE) Fund for further use in accordance with the purposes authorized by the federal CARES Act. A portion of the funds appropriated for the Local CURE Support Program may be allotted to municipalities and counties based on proportionate population.
The budget allows unique funding opportunities for us to make a meaningful effort to provide people experiencing or at risk of homelessness the opportunity to become stable in permanent affordable housing with the needed services. CCH will continue to do advocacy for people experiencing homelessness and the organizations providing them with services.