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Applications For Chicago Housing Assistance Grants Far Outpace Funds Available

CHICAGO (CBS) -- In Chicago 83,000 people have applied for the city's housing assistance grant to pay their rents or mortgages. That number is far greater than the amount available and the number of people expected to apply.

CBS 2 is Working for Chicago, and it is our commitment to bring you information about the unemployment crisis that will help you get back on your feet. CBS 2's Chris Tye has been digging into who is benefiting from the grant.

The city has $2 million in housing assistance available. For every grant available, 40 people applied. The money does not come from taxpayers but from a fee on developers. Unlike unemployment hoops, recipients say it was painless.

Before hitting a rough patch, Shakeria Cunningham was paying it forward by donating to a fund for those out of work. 

"I would donate $25 to $30," she said.

Now she has joined those ranks, and her rainy day fund won't last long.

"Not long at all, not long at all," she said.

She said unlike the state unemployment system that has left her waiting and wondering , the process through the city program putting $1,000 in the hands of 2,000 households needing rent and mortgage assistance was easy.

"This process was a piece of cake," she said.

Deborah Williams helped screen some fo the 83,000 Chicago households that applied.

"Sometimes people call in and they immediately start crying," she said.

A heat map from the city shows where the most applications came from, and another shows the West and Northwest sides got the most money.

"We knew we couldn't help everybody," Williams said. "That's the hard part.

Another hard part: that $1,000 covers Cunningham only until the end of the month. After that the rainy day fund dries quickly.

"Probably a half of month that I still have now, probably not even a whole half, due to lights and gas," she said.

It's a one month bandage for first round recipients, but there is word that others may still have a shot

"I heard that there might be another round, not for sure. We don't have information so far," Williams said.

But she said people are optimistic.

Applicants had to submit eligibility documents for the department of housing to review. Households had to demonstrate hardship and show unemployment insurance claims, proof of unemployment and as proof that household income was at or below 60% of the area median income prior to job loss.

About 500 of the 2,000 grants in the first round have not been handed out yet. Half are given by the Department of Housing, and the other half are done by community groups, more local, more personal and quicker, putting needed money in the hands of those who need it fast.

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