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Qualified McHenry County renters who are behind on their rent or utilities because of the COVID-19 pandemic will soon be able to tap into $9.1 million in federal money to keep a roof over their heads and their lights on.

The County Board voted last week to create the McHenry County Emergency Utility and Rental Assistance Program to distribute the money, which was allocated through federal COVID-19 stimulus to help renters. The program aims to reduce or eliminate pandemic-related evictions, prevent homelessness, avoid damaged credit that could hurt future housing opportunities for renters, and repair landlord/tenant relationships strained because of lack of payment.

Renters who qualify (and landlords can apply, too) can receive rent and utility assistance for up to six months in arrears, and up to three months in advance. Awarded funds are paid directly to the landlord or the utility company.

Qualifying households must be at or below 80 percent of their area median income – households at 50 percent or lower or that include dependents or seniors 62 years and older will get priority. They also must be able to demonstrate a loss of income or employment as a result of COVID-19. Immigration status is not a factor in determining eligibility.

It is anticipated that the program will be up and running by mid-March, and the goal is to get this money out as quickly as possible. Until then, people who have questions about the program can email

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