How an ‘unusual’ system error caused an Illinois homeowner to be denied $6,000 pandemic aid – NBC Chicago

For more than a year, Glendale Heights owner Gope Thadani has insisted the state of Illinois made a huge mistake when it was denied thousands of dollars in aid. emergency accommodation.

That money was earmarked by lawmakers for people like him, but state officials denied his request in part based on a finding that he had already received prior aid, a fact that the man vehemently denied.

Despite repeated calls and emails from Thadani and his family to state housing officials asking for help, he said he couldn’t convince anyone to take a closer look at his situation.

Turns out Thadani was right all along.

NBC 5 Responds discovered an “unusual” computer error in state systems that resulted in his denial of more than $6,000 in pandemic aid he had requested and was eligible for.

State officials insist his case was an anomaly and that there is “no evidence of a pattern” of other households who have been affected.

For Thadani, who said his pleas were ignored by state officials for 11 months, he remains unconvinced and fears other candidates have been denied the emergency aid they depend on , just like him.

“I don’t think I’m the only unhappy person,” Thadani told NBC 5.

‘There must be a mistake’

Thadani, 74,’s situation began with the Hanover Park home which he has rented for many years without a hitch.

As a retiree, Thadani said rental property provides him and his family with additional income.

That is until the pandemic hits and upends everyone’s lives, including their tenant’s employment status.

“Everyone was going through a tough time during this time of COVID,” Thadani said. “It was difficult for me because I am on social security. It’s just extra income for me. It was hard to pay all the bills and everything.

When Thadani’s tenant lost his job and couldn’t pay his rent for more than six months, he said he didn’t know what to do next.

That’s when Thadani heard about the Illinois Rent Payment Program (ILRPP): hundreds of millions of dollars set aside by Congress and distributed by the state to tenants and landlords in this same scenario. .

In Illinois, the money was distributed by numerous agencies at all levels of government, from local cities and counties to state-run programs.

The agency responsible for distributing the bulk of this pandemic aid is the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA).

The ILRPP program promised simple relief, but that was not the case for this owner.

Gope applied for the $17,700 funding he believed he was entitled to through the ILRPP in May 2021.

Four months later, after his request was granted, IHDA officials told him he would receive just over half of what he asked for, a shortfall of $6,400.

The reason for this, Thadani said, is that the state claimed he had already received housing assistance.

“I thought maybe there was a mistake or something,” Thadani said. “So I called them and they said no, you got a check.”

Thadani knew there had been a mistake and that he had not received any help to date, but IHDA staff would not explain to him how the agency had come to this conclusion.

“I said, ‘I haven’t received any payment. Can you give me the details? When is this payment? Who received it? Who cashed the check? “, told NBC 5 Thadani. “They could not answer anything.

Despite her pleas, Gope Thadani says IHDA staff told her “nothing would change” after she was denied $400 in housing assistance funding.

The mistake brought a lot of uncertainty for him and his family.

For seven months, his family’s email and phone calls were rejected. At one point, Thadani said, IHDA officials even discouraged him from calling back.

“I called so many times and they kept telling me, ‘Nothing is going to change. That’s it,'” Thadani said.

That’s when Thadani contacted NBC 5 Responds last May, a year after his first request for assistance.

And after sharing the details of Thadani’s situation, IHDA representatives shared with NBC 5 a very different explanation of what happened.

“It’s so unusual that this happened”

Days after NBC 5 contacted IHDA about the Thadani family’s request for housing assistance, officials promised an investigation that would yield results.

The results came as a surprise: the IHDA acknowledged that its systems had “erroneously identified” Thadani as receiving rental assistance, when in fact he never did.

“When we investigated this case, we discovered [Duplication of Benefits] database mistakenly identified this address had received prior rental assistance,” said IHDA spokesperson Amy Lee. “Based on this information, we reduced the subsidy amount to ensure that the household did not receive double payments.”

Lee explained that when a person applies for housing assistance from the ILRPP, IHDA staff members check a “Duplication of Benefits (DOB)” database to see if that applicant’s address appears. as already receiving housing assistance from another agency.

“This database verification is necessary to ensure that we and other government agencies are not providing overlapping assistance,” Lee explained.

A crucial step which, in the case of Thadani, backfired.

The database check matched Thadani’s address with the “very similar” address of someone else who had previously received benefits.

Lee explained, “[Gope Thadani’s] was very close to the address of another application that received funding, which caused the system to associate the data from the two applications.

“Even with addresses on the same street, this shouldn’t happen, and the database usually easily distinguishes between apps,” Lee said.

IHDA said the issue surrounding Thadani’s app was “so unusual” that its team launched a “manual review to confirm how this error occurred and to make sure it doesn’t happen to others.” apps”.

“It is so unusual for this to have happened in this case,” Lee said, “So far we have found no evidence of a pattern, and we will continue to perform quality control to monitor the issue. in the future.”

As for Thadani, the state said on June 2 that it would pay him the remaining balance of $6,400 to which he was entitled.

Two months later, after yet another technical hiccup, the check still hasn’t arrived, but IHDA told NBC 5 it was cut and mailed Aug. 5.

In the meantime, Thadani hopes state officials will pay closer attention to any applicants who raise concerns or complaints about denied payments.

If someone at IHDA had taken the time to hear her family’s pleas, Thadani said the issue could have been resolved almost a year ago.

“That’s not the right way to talk to people,” Thadani said. “It’s government assistance. It’s a government program. And these people need to be detained properly.

For a list of pandemic-related rental assistance resources, click here.

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