President Preckwinkle Announces the Launch of the Cook County Reconnect Program for Returning Residents
Participants are now being referred through Community Organizations and the Illinois Dept. of Corrections
Today, Cook County announced the launch of Cook County Reconnect: Rental Assistance and Services for Returning Residents. Cook County has designated $23 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding for this initiative which provides rental assistance and services to residents returning to Cook County from periods of incarceration. Cook County Reconnect launched in August with a successful pilot phase.
“In Cook County, we recognize the many challenges associated with reentry and we are committed to increasing access to supports and services that help returning residents navigate challenges and thrive in their communities,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “Cook County Reconnect will help increase economic opportunity and reduce recidivism for our returning residents. By investing in the stability and success of individuals, we are providing critical support to families and ultimately building safer, stronger communities for all.”
By combining rental assistance and individualized support services, Cook County Reconnect addresses areas of need commonly experienced by returning residents. The program is being managed by the Cook County Justice Advisory Council (JAC) with support from the Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC) who manage direct rental assistance payments to landlords and property managers.
“While each person’s reentry journey is unique, many returning residents face obstacles to finding and maintaining stable housing and employment – the very things that lay the foundation for future success,” said Nikki Muñoz, Reentry Services Manager of the JAC. “Cook County Reconnect is designed to be responsive to the obstacles faced by returning residents so that they can build the lives they envision and contribute to their families and communities in meaningful ways.”
“Safe and stable housing is critical for successful reentry with housing insecurity being associated with higher rates of recidivism among returning residents,” said Sheryl Seiling, Director of Rent Assistance for the HACC. “The Cook County Reconnect program aligns with our mission of promoting affordable housing, economic opportunity, and a suitable living environment free from discrimination. We are proud to be advancing this important work by helping returning residents in Cook County find and maintain housing that will help set them up for long-term success.”
Cook County Reconnect is for individuals who have returned to the community from the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) in the last 24 months and need support establishing a lease in Cook County. Eligible individuals must be referred through IDOC or a designated community referral partner.
“Stable housing is an essential component of a successful re-entry journey for thousands who leave IDOC and return to communities in Cook County each year,” said IDOC Acting Director Latoya Hughes. “We are proud to work with the Justice Advisory Council on this new initiative that will serve as a vital resource to ensure housing stability and provide individualized support to returning residents.”
Referred individuals who are accepted to participate in Cook County Reconnect will receive support finding a rental unit, a one-time utilities stipend, full rental coverage for the first three months of their lease and income-driven rental assistance for the remainder of their time in the program.
Individualized support services are also available to all Cook County Reconnect participants through community-based organizations including North Lawndale Employment Network and Proviso Leyden Council for Community Action. Available services include legal services, mental and physical health service referrals, substance use treatment, financial coaching, employment support, and assistance obtaining childcare and home furnishings.
"We continue to hear about the barriers to stable housing and employment for returning residents in our communities," said NLEN President & CEO Brenda M. Palms. "While barriers persist, we also see the tremendous impact of providing individualized support to this population. By being responsive to the needs of returning residents, we allow them to make a full U-Turn in their lives and build a prosperous future for themselves and their families. We are honored to collaborate with the Cook County Justice Advisory Council as an agency providing wraparound services and support to residents in Cook County Reconnect."
Cook County Reconnect will operate through November 2026. To participate, individuals must meet the program’s eligibility criteria and be referred through the formal referral process. Space in the program is limited. An enrollment lottery system will be utilized, and program participation is not guaranteed. To learn more about Cook County Reconnect, join the virtual Cook County Equity Fund Hearing on September 14th at 6:00pm or visit CookCountyIL.gov/JACReentry.