6/9/20 - A Message to Providers from Secretary Hou: Summer Youth Employment & Immigrant Family Support Projects

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Dear Stakeholders,

IDHS has been vigilant about ensuring the safety of staff, partner organizations, and those that we serve. One of the values that IDHS always strives for and drives towards is equity. This means that we hold ourselves accountable to providing relief and assistance to those who are in greatest need and who have been marginalized from resources and opportunities. This has been true of our response to COVID 19. Additional resources have been provided to protect and support people who experience or are at-risk of homelessness, victims of domestic violence, and people with disabilities.

I am pleased to share with you that IDHS is launching two COVID-19 response programs designed to provide much needed support to Illinois residents and community members that have been generally excluded or ineligible from federal COVID-19 relief and unemployment insurance: the Summer Youth Employment Initiative and the Immigrant Family Support Project.

Summer Youth Employment Project

IDHS, with support from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA), is proud to announce a COVID-19 Summer Youth Employment Program (C-SYEP). The COVID-19 Summer Youth Employment Program will be implemented and managed by IDHS-funded Youth Services organizations across Illinois.

Many young people between the ages of 16 and 24 face significant challenges to securing employment this summer. This group of young people makes up 24% of the overall workforce employed in industries at highest risk of closure due to COVID-19.

To address this hardship, the COVID-19 Summer Youth Employment Program seeks to help employ 2,200 more low-income, minority and at-risk youth living in high poverty communities and counties hardest hit by the pandemic. The primary objective for youth served in the program will be to develop essential employability skills and to earn entry-level work experience.

Grantees of the program will partner with local employers in need of summer employees. Participating youth will be placed in age-appropriate, ability-appropriate, and experience-appropriate Work-Based Learning Opportunities, Career Development Experience Opportunities, or Pre-Apprenticeship programs.

Eligible youth include those low income and/or at-risk youth ages 16-24 who have Illinois residency and are able to provide an I-9 prior to employment. IDHS anticipates that up to 30 projects will be funded in Champaign; Cook; Lake; Macon; McLean; Peoria; St. Clair; Stephenson; and Winnebago Counties.

The Immigrant Family Support Project

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) and the Immigrant Funders Collaborative (IFC) launched the COVID-19 Immigrant Family Support Project, which will provide pandemic-related emergency assistance funding to Illinois immigrants - regardless of immigration status - who are facing unemployment, loss of income, medical costs, and food and housing insecurity as a direct result of COVID-19 and are ineligible for unemployment and the federal COVID-19 stimulus payments. IDHS has dedicated $2 million to the effort and the IFC, a private foundation funders' collaboration, is raising an initial $750,000 to support the project.

While many Illinoisans have access to support from federal Economic Impact Payments based on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) and to other state and federal benefits, many immigrants are excluded. This project will help fill the gap and provide much needed direct support for immigrant families in Illinois.

With the IDHS contribution, the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) will administer funds through a state-wide network of over 60 community-based organizations and Illinois Welcoming Centers who identify, confirm the eligibility of, and enroll families in the program. Through these partners, funding will then be distributed to more than 3,600 affected households of immigrants, focusing on those with the lowest incomes. IFC will also continue fundraising beyond its initial investment.

In order to be eligible for assistance, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a resident of Illinois.
  • Have experienced an income disruption due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (either a job loss or reduction in hours).
  • Not be eligible for federal stimulus or unemployment insurance.

Priority will be also given to households with income below 200% federal poverty level.

I am confident that both of the initiatives above will bring important relief to families across Illinois in a time when they are most needed in our communities.


Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS