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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.

Winnebago County Renters and Landlords Eligible For Assistance

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

Winnebago County residents can now apply for financial help due to hardships related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Winnebago County officials announced on Monday that the money is available through a federally-funded $8.3 million Emergency Rental Assistance Grant for housing stability for renters and landlords.

Anqunette Parham is with the city of Rockford’s Human Services Department. She says the city and county have already given out hundreds of thousands of dollars in emergency rent assistance. 

"So we do know that the need is great," Parham said. "We also anticipate that many folks may not have sought out assistance at the moment because they knew that there was a moratorium on evictions and they had other resources kind of in place that might have delayed them actually seeking help who may need it."

According to the county's news release, you can access the application online at https://renthelp.wincoil.us.  Both tenants and landlords can apply and applications must be submitted online. The initial application period runs through April 15.  A new application window is expected to open May 1.  Those without access to a computer or smartphone can call 815.972.RENT for assistance.

  • Anyone renting housing in Winnebago County and making less than 80% of the median household income is eligible to apply for funding. For a family of four, the necessary household income level would be $55,700 or less. For a one-person household, that income level would be $39,000 or less.  An income chart is available on the website link above.
  • Winnebago County renters can also apply for coverage to pay up to 12 months of past due utility bills including electric, gas, water, wastewater or sewer, trash removal and internet services.
  • Application requirements include having a household member qualify for unemployment or have experienced a loss in household income since April of 2020. Money received must be used to pay past due rent that accumulated on or after April 1, 2020, and landlords can apply on behalf of their tenants.  Winnebago County will issue checks directly to the landlords.
  • At the conclusion of the initial application period on April 15, applications will be reviewed, funding distributed and if grant money remains, the County will open a second application period from May 1-15. All applicants will receive notification of whether or not their application was approved. Tenants are responsible for paying any amount of past due rent or future rent, in full, that is not covered by this grant program.
  • Eligible households may receive up to 12 months of assistance, plus an additional 3 months if it is determined the extra months are needed to ensure housing stability and funds are available. The County is partnering with the City of Rockford Human Services Department to implement the program.

  • Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project which is a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms.
Juanpablo covers environmental, substandard housing and police-community relations. He’s been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office in Chicago. As a civic reporting fellow at City Bureau, a non-profit news organization that focuses on Chicago’s South Side, Ramirez-Franco produced print and audio stories about the Pilsen neighborhood. Before that, he was a production intern at the Third Coast International Audio Festival and the rural America editorial intern at In These Times magazine. Ramirez-Franco grew up in northern Illinois. He is a graduate of Knox College.