Cannabis Expungement Network Grant Guidelines

Background

The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) is a not-for-profit corporation established in 1999, pursuant to the Illinois Equal Justice Act (30 ILCS 765/1 et. seq.).  The IEJF supports initiatives to increase Illinois residents’ access to the legal system.  The IEJF provides grants to nonprofit legal aid providers through three distinct state appropriations housed in the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

IEJF has been charged with distributing grant funding to civil legal aid organizations throughout Illinois to aid in the implementation of cannabis expungement under Public Act 101-0027, the Cannabis Regulation & Tax Act (the Act). The purpose of the funding is to assist people in accessing civil legal aid and expungement relief under the Act.

Availability of Funds

Public Act 101-0027 creates the Cannabis Expungement Fund in the State treasury, financed through moneys collected under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. The budget for FY 20 grants is approximately $1.4M.

Purposes

The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation will make grants in four categories:

An organization may apply for funds in more than one category.  Organizations seeking support for more than one of the four purposes must submit a separate application for each category.

Eligibility

Organizations are eligible to apply for a grant from the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation if they:

  • Are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code;
  • Provide services to Illinois residents in one or more of the four areas set forth in the “Purposes” section.  To determine if a particular project qualifies for a grant, see the specific guidelines for each of the four categories noted above.
  • Provide free legal representation, advice or information to low-income clients seeking expungement of cannabis convictions under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.
  • Adhere to income guidelines that includes people whose households have an income of up to 80% of the current Chicago Area Median Income (AMI). The City of Chicago and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development update AMI calculations annually. Current AMI can be found on the City of Chicago website: https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/area_median_incomeamichart.html
  • Engage in a network model for service delivery. This requires organizations to take and make referrals from other organizations via secure electronic portal, share data, collaborate, and report on activities using standardized methods.
  • Demonstrate expertise in providing services to individuals with arrest or conviction records through criminal records legal relief.

Limitations

  • Funds appropriated by the Illinois General Assembly, including funds distributed by the IEJF, may not be spent on a sectarian purpose.
  • Said funds may not be used for the purpose of lobbying; encouraging political activities, labor or anti-labor activities, boycotts, picketing, strikes or demonstrations; or investigative or legal compliance activities related to a pending dispute.
  • A recipient may not use funds received under the Illinois Equal Justice Act to file an individual action or class action under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act or other labor laws.
  • Organizations may not deny services on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, heritage, race, religion, or citizenship.
  • No more than 10% of grants awarded by the IEJF can be used for overhead costs.  Failure to abide by this may jeopardize future funding from the IEJF.

Timeline for Application & Review

The grant period will be June 1, 2020 – May 31, 2021 and the application and review process will follow this schedule:

April 6, 2020 Applications available at www.iejf.org.

There is a separate application for each funding category.

May 4, 2020 Completed applications & proposals due
May 11 – May 29, 2020 Grant review & site visits
Mid-June, 2020 Board decisions announced

Grant Disbursement

Grant payments will be disbursed in June and January.  Payments are dependent on receipt of the funds from the state.

General Evaluation Criteria

(see funding category for more specific criteria)

  • Applicant’s experience in providing said service, as indicated by the experience levels and qualifications of key staff and the numbers of persons served through criminal records relief in prior years.
  • Understanding of disproportionate racial and economic impacts of the criminal system, and responses to barriers in reaching most-impacted populations through collaboration or targeted outreach.
  • Location of applicant’s service-delivery and alignment with disproportionately-impacted areas designated by the Restore, Reinvest and Renew (R3) Board by data provided through the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA), found at https://icjia.illinois.gov/r3/.
  • Efficient service delivery, which takes into consideration factors such as the relative costs of the applicant’s services; cooperation and coordination with other entities to avoid duplication of effort; the use of volunteers; and the use of technology to increase access to services and to maximize productivity.
  • Sound organizational management, including indices such as the fiscal health of the sponsoring organization; realistic income and expense budgets for the project; evidence of active involvement and oversight by a qualified advisory board and/or board of directors; and demonstrated technical efficiencies and protection of client data.
  • Use of evaluative and measurement techniques that measure success, effectiveness and efficiency as it relates to organizational mission and that are used for learning and improvement.
  • Use of goals, S.M.A.R.T. objectives, and outcome measurements. IEJF requires applicants to provide overarching goals that are supported by objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Goals and objectives should be proposed with the initial application and will be reported on in the mid-term and final reports. Existing metrics and evaluation systems should at a minimum incorporate the concept of S.M.A.R.T. objectives.

Some non-exhaustive examples:

  • Goal:  Increase access to justice for individuals seeking cannabis expungement.
    • Objective: During the grant period, file 100 Motions to Vacate and Expunge eligible cannabis convictions on behalf of individuals in our service area.
    • Objective: During the first six months of the grant period, secure cannabis expungement relief for 50 individuals.
    • Outcome measurements: Number of convictions vacated and expunged, client satisfaction and quality of life improvements.
  • Goal: Increase the knowledge and understanding of individuals about their rights and eligibility under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.
    • Objective: Mobilize volunteer attorneys to create know-your-rights materials on relief for cannabis conviction expungement, producing comprehensive and accessible materials for the public within two months.
    • Objective: Host six know-your-rights forums and distribute 500 copies of the know-your-rights materials to individuals in the service area from July to September.
    • Outcome measurements: Increase in knowledge/understanding/confidence in eligibility for expungement relief, increased use of network model by recipients to request assistance from individuals that now understand their rights regarding cannabis expungement.
  • Performance under previous Illinois Equal Justice Foundation grants. For organizations that received grants in previous fiscal years, information on how the grant is being used, what services are being provided and if/how the funds increased the capacity of the organization.

Grant requests will be evaluated on the factors listed above and the criteria listed under each funding category.

The IEJF is committed to equitable salaries for legal aid providers and encourages applicants to develop a reasonable pay scale, training and support program for its personnel to ensure that client services are not interrupted by unplanned staff turnover.

Application and Reporting Requirements

All grantees must submit a brief midterm and a final report on their activities. The IEJF will provide the report forms in advance of the due date via the online grant management portal at https://www.grantinterface.com/Home/Logon?urlkey=IEJF. Grantees must state whether or not they can spend the grant funds in the time and manner allocated in this report. The IEJF reserves the right to re-grant funds if deemed necessary. Failure to submit reports in a timely manner or to utilize standardized evaluative methods may jeopardize future IEJF funding.

  • Applications are due electronically by May 4, 2020.
  • Midterm reports due December 30, 2020.
  • Final reports due June 30, 2020.

For More Information

For more information about the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation’s grant guidelines and procedures, contact Leslie Corbett, Executive Director, at 312-938-2381.  You can also contact Ms. Corbett via e-mail at lcorbett@iejf.org.

To learn more about the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, please see www.iejf.org.

Approved by the Cannabis Expungement Working Group, February 21, 2020.

Approved by the Board of Directors, March 09, 2020.