CHICAGO (CBS) — Rent and mortgage relief; that’s what brought landlords and tenants together for a virtual town hall meeting Monday morning as families in Illinois get ready for another month without enough income to pay bills.

The virtual town hall was organized by Communities United, which brought together landlords, tenants, and a handful of elected officials on Zoom to discuss the need for assistance from the government during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, they’re looking for significant funding to help with mortgage and rent relief, even after the stay-at-home order is lifted.

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“We have some money to keep us afloat for a little while, but if this stay-at-home order lasts any longer, and there’s no help from the state or federal government, we will not be able to pay our bills, let alone rent,” said renter Hiwotenshe Bekele.

More than 800,000 people in Illinois have filed unemployment claims since March, making it hard for some families to pay rent.

Communities United said it’s about more than just what happens this month or next. They argued that, even with the city announcing commitments from some banks and small landlords to provide payment flexibility, it’s still not certain what happens when the stay-at-home order is lifted.

Delayed rent payments will continue to grow during the order, with no promise that those who lost their jobs during the pandemic will immediately get them back and return to work once it’s lifted.

They want the state and federal governments to step in.

Congress members in the town hall said the federal government is working on a bill to help out.

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“The bill will establish an emergency rental assistance program, which would provide $100 billion in help for families and individuals to cover their rent and utility bills and remain in stable housing,” U.S. Rep Jan Schakowsky said.

Schakowsky said the House added a similar provision to the previous $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, but it was rejected by the Senate.

She said the goal is to push harder to make sure it happens this time around.




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