CHICAGO — The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) announced the official launch of the Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA) for Gender-based Violence and Human Trafficking (GBV/HT) Survivors. The $5 million fund, supplemented by an additional $1 million from the 2023 budget, aims to provide cash assistance to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking. The program will offer one-time payments of $1,000 to support the economic stability of survivors.

The Emergency Financial Assistance Program aims to reach over 5,000 survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and/or human trafficking residing in Chicago, who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Its primary goal is to enhance survivors’ economic stability by offering emergency financial aid to cover various expenses, including childcare, transportation, medical costs, education, and housing. Unrestricted funds will empower survivors to allocate resources according to their specific needs, enabling them to prioritize their safety. The Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence will administer the program.

“We must do what we can as a city to break down barriers that prevent survivors from accessing the resources they need to personally rebuild and revive,” stated Mayor Brandon Johnson. “The Emergency Financial Assistance program is a vital step forward in this recovery because by supporting survivors and putting them on a better path to economic stability, we can help them heal from pain and trauma and uplift and empower them to carry on living healthy lives.”

DFSS Commissioner Brandie Knazze emphasized the significance of cash assistance, stating, “DFSS’s Division on Gender-Based Violence leads an expanding strategy to support GBV survivors, and our experience teaches us that cash is a vital lifeline for individuals in crisis. The resources from this fund will provide the flexibility that survivors need to determine how to seek safety, access transportation, or obtain healthcare and housing.”

To qualify for the program, individuals must have an income at or below 300% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), equivalent to $74,580 per year for a family of three, as specified by the Treasury Department. Survivors residing in or escaping violence from COVID-19 heavily affected communities will receive priority consideration.

In adherence to trauma-informed practices, survivors will not be required to provide evidence of their survivorship. Instead, they will be asked to self-attest or provide a connection to an advocate or service provider.

“The Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence is proud to partner with the City of Chicago to strengthen the safety net for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and/or stalking in Chicago,” said Amanda Pyron, Executive Director of The Network. “We thank Mayor Johnson for continuing this essential program and dedicating critical funding to ensure survivors of gender-based violence can afford safety.”

Following the initial pilot phase, which accepted over 1,000 applications, the program made its first payments to 733 survivors at the beginning of May. Of the funded survivors in the initial phase, 35% identified as Latinx/Hispanic, while 47% identified as Black/African-American. More than 42% of the recipients resided in communities classified as High Vulnerability areas under the Chicago COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index.


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