Legal aid is one of the largest areas of unmet need facing Illinois veterans and active duty military according to a recent survey conducted by Illinois Joining Forces. One of the greatest areas of vulnerability is consumer issues, particularly high-rate financing scheme that can leave a family home in foreclosure. Housing and family law issues are also areas of significant need.
The Access to Justice Act, passed in 2013 and amended in 2015, addresses this need by creating a statewide legal aid hotline and network of supporting legal services to meet the needs of Illinois veterans and service members. The work is funded by a temporary $2 surcharge to civil filing fees. Collection of the fee began in September 2015 and ends in 2020. A report is due to the General Assembly in June 2021.
The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) has been charged with implementing this project with the guidance and leadership of the Illinois Access to Civil Justice Council. Staff has been hired to conduct a legal needs assessment and to design the projects the IEJF hopes to fund with the revenue. Legal aid organizations and pro bono projects across the state will take part in a competitive grants process to provide these vital services.
The current state budget impasse has prevented the release of these critical funds. Once a budget is in place and appropriation power is restored, Attorney General Madigan will appropriate the funds to the IEJF. Attorney General Madigan has requested a $1.4 million appropriation from the Access to Justice Fund for the IEJF in her FY 17 budget request.
For more information on the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network, please contact Zach Zarnow at 312-938-2106 or firstname.lastname@example.org.