Grant Guidelines

 

Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network

A Project of the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation

2017

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 is funded through a state appropriation housed in the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. IEJF has been charged with the implementation of Public Act 99-0281, an amendment to the Access to Justice Act (2013). The Act created the Illinois Access to Civil Justice Council, with the mandate to create a pilot statewide legal assistance hotline and coordinated network of legal support services for active duty military personnel, veterans, members of the national guard, reservists, and their spouses and dependents (Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network). The purpose of this effort is to “provid[e] access to legal advice and a referral system of attorneys for veterans and active duty service members, who often have underlying issues as a result of their military service, [so as to] increase[e] the efficiency of the court system and advanc[e] access to justice for everyone in this State.” 705 ILCS 95/5(c).

Availability of Funds

Public Act 99-0281 creates the Access to Justice Fund in the State treasury, financed by a fee of $2 on the filing of the first pleading, paper, or other appearance by each party in all civil cases. The money available in the Fund therefore fluctuates with the volume of civil filings. The current amount available for FY17 grants is approximately $1,000,000. Receipt of a grant in one grant cycle does not guarantee funding in the next grant cycle. All organizations must reapply if they seek continued funding.

Purposes

Grant funding is available for the following:

  • Telephone Advice and Referral Services
  • Civil Legal Aid Services
  • Pro Bono Legal Aid Services

Eligibility

Organizations are eligible to apply for a grant 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 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 categories noted above;
  • Provide services to low-income veterans, active duty military, members of the national guard, reservists, or the spouses or dependents of same in actions that are not adverse to the veteran or service member;
  • Adhere to income guidelines for the low-income client population that includes people whose households’ have an income 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 yearly. Current AMI can be found on the City of Chicago website: https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/area_median_incomeamichart.html;
  • Demonstrate a willingness to engage in a network model for service delivery. This will require organizations to take and make referrals from other organizations, share data, collaborate, and report on activities using standardized methods. This will also require a willingness to co-brand activities under the “Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network” and/or “IL-AFLAN” moniker, attend network events, and help publicize the network;
  • Demonstrate the expertise of staff in providing services to active duty military members or veterans who will be directly involved in proposed grant-funded activities. It is further expected that staff or volunteers without such expertise will undergo initial and ongoing training to ensure competency;
  • Utilize outcome and impact tracking to measure and evaluate the benefits of any and all services provided. Grant contracts will require organizations to use standardized measurements developed for network member activities. Particular attention will be paid to defining a nexus between military service and the legal problem addressed.

Limitations

  • Funds 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.
  • Funds may not be used for legal actions that are adverse to the veteran or active duty military member.
  • Funds may not be used to provide services to veterans with a dishonorable discharge.
  • 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 and Review

February 13, 2017 Applications available at www.iejf.org.  There is a separate application for each funding category.
March 13, 2017 Completed applications & proposals due
March – April 2017 Grant review & site visits
May 2017 Decisions announced

General Evaluation Criteria

(see funding category for more specific criteria)

  • Demonstrated need for the proposed services.
  • Applicant’s experience in providing said service, as indicated by the experience levels and qualifications of key staff and the numbers of persons served in prior years.
  • 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 efficiency and protection of client data.
  • Use of evaluative and monitoring techniques that measure success, effectiveness, and efficiency as it relates to organizational mission and that are used for learning and improvement.
  • Use of goals and S.M.A.R.T. objectives.  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 to achieve goals and outcome measurements to evaluate progress toward goals.  Examples include:
    • Goal:  Decrease the number of veterans suffering from abusive debt collection practices in service area.
      • Objective:  During the grant period, file 20 Fair Debt Collection Practice Act claims on behalf of veterans in service area.
      • Objective:  During the first six months of the grant period, secure debt modifications or eliminations for 35 veterans.
      • Outcome measurements: Number and value of debts forgiven, amount of attorney fees awarded to organization, client satisfaction and quality of life improvements.
    • Goal:  Increase access to justice for self-represented veteran litigants at the local courthouse.
      • Objective:  Recruit 40 new volunteers to staff the organization’s self-help desks by conducting two outreach events and training sessions in September at the local law school.
      • Objective:  Over the next six months, pilot new self-help center software by providing services to 500 veterans.
      • Outcome measurements: Success rates of those assisted, attendant financial or other gains realized through those successes, improvements in time to resolution, reduction in improper filings.

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.


 

Purposes/Funding Categories

I)          Telephone Advice and Referral Services

Purpose

The Access to Justice Act directs the Access to Civil Justice Council to develop “a pilot program to create a statewide military personnel and veterans’ legal assistance hotline and coordinating network of legal support resources [that] provide[s] intake, screening, and varying levels of legal assistance to ensure that the parties served by these programs have meaningful access to justice….”

Accordingly, proposed hotline projects should:

  • Provide callers with general information on how to use the legal system;
  • Offer free legal advice and self-help materials to low-income callers;
  • Refer low-income callers to appropriate civil legal services providers;
  • Provide coordinated intake and referral services;
  • Work with non-legal social service providers and networks in the veteran space to make and take referrals.

Use of Grant Funds

Grants will be made to support the operating expenses of legal services hotlines.  These operating expenses include staff salaries and benefits, as well as other costs directly related to providing advice and referral services to callers.

Eligibility

In the Telephone Advice and Referral Services category, the IEJF will only consider applications from Illinois-based not-for-profit organizations that:

  • Provide free legal advice and referral services to low-income veterans, active duty military, or their spouses or dependents.
  • Provide legal advice and referral services on one or more civil legal issues.
  • Use licensed attorneys to provide legal services to callers.

The IEJF will not make grants to support the client screening and intake systems of individual legal services programs if they do not provide direct service in the form of legal advice, brief services and/or referrals.

Evaluation Criteria (see criteria listed in Overview Section as well)

Grant applications in the Telephone Advice and Referral Services category will be evaluated based on:

  • Demonstrated need for the proposed services, as reflected in the number of eligible clients in the applicant’s service area; the volume of calls received; and current unmet demand.
  • Efficient service delivery, which takes into consideration factors such as the relative costs of the applicant’s services; the use of volunteers; the availability of appropriate client self-help materials; and the use of technology to increase client access and streamline case-handling procedures.

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II)         Civil Legal Assistance

Purpose

The IEJF makes grants to provide legal assistance to low-income Illinois veterans, members of the military, and the spouse or dependent of same who cannot afford to hire an attorney and are not seeking services that would be adverse to the veteran or service member.

Priority Areas

Veterans and active duty military members have many of the same legal needs as the general legal aid client population. They also have a few unique legal needs. Priority areas include: 

  • General Legal Aid:  This includes civil legal assistance in cases involving family law (eg., orders of protection, child custody, guardianships, dissolution of marriage and post-decree matters), housing law, consumer law, education, and benefits. 
  • Unique Legal Needs:  This includes efforts to provide civil legal assistance to those seeking discharge upgrades, VA benefits and appeals, criminal records expungement, drivers license reinstatement, dissolution of outstanding warrants and fines, military pensions and benefits.

Use of Grant Funds

  • Grants will be made to support direct service staff positions and associated program costs at eligible legal services providers, including attorneys, paralegals and/or pro bono coordinators. Grant funds can be used to pay for salaries, benefits, and limited overhead costs (10%) directly related to supporting the position.  The applicant must demonstrate how the proposed staff position will help the organization provide efficient and effective legal assistance to persons in one or both of the priority areas. Where projects are housed within a larger institution, indirect costs may not be assessed from grant funds.

Eligibility

In the Civil Legal Assistance category, the IEJF will only consider applications from Illinois-based not-for-profit organizations that:

  • Serve persons in one or both of the two priority areas listed above.
  • Have been in continuous operation for at least two years prior to the date the application is submitted to the IEJF.
  • Have received and expended at least $200,000 for the provision of civil legal assistance to low-income persons in its most recently completed fiscal year.
  • Employ four or more full-time, licensed attorneys who provide civil legal assistance to low-income persons at the time the application is submitted to the IEJF; or have provided legal representation to at least 200 low-income persons through the services of pro bono attorneys in their most recently completed fiscal year.

Eligible organizations may submit more than one request under this category, but must submit a separate proposal for each request.

Evaluation Criteria (see criteria listed in Overview Section as well)

Grant applications in the Civil Legal Assistance category will be evaluated based on:

  • Demonstrated need for the proposed services, as reflected in the number of eligible clients in the applicant’s service area; current unmet demand; and requests for assistance from other community agencies serving the target populations.

***

III)        Pro Bono Legal Aid Services

Purpose

The IEJF makes grants to provide legal assistance to low-income Illinois veterans and active duty military members, or the spouse or dependents of the same, through the provision of pro bono services.

Priority Areas

Veterans and active duty military members have many of the same legal needs as the general legal aid client population. They also have a few unique legal needs. Priority areas include: 

  • General Legal Aid:  This includes civil legal assistance in cases involving family law (eg., orders of protection, child custody, guardianships, dissolution of marriage and post-decree matters), housing law, consumer law, education, and benefits. 
  • Unique Legal Needs:  This includes efforts to provide civil legal assistance to those seeking discharge upgrades, VA benefits and appeals, criminal records expungement, drivers’ license reinstatement, dissolution of outstanding warrants and fines, military pensions and benefits.

Use of Grant Funds

  • Grants will be made to support direct service staff positions and associated program costs at eligible pro bono service providers, including attorneys, paralegals and/or pro bono coordinators who will manage pro bono volunteer recruitment, training, and management.  Grant funds can be used to pay for salaries, benefits, and limited overhead costs (10%) directly related to supporting the position.  The applicant must demonstrate how the proposed staff position will help the organization provide efficient and effective legal assistance to persons in one or both of the priority areas. Where projects are housed within a larger institution, indirect costs may not be assessed from grant funds.

Eligibility

In the Pro Bono Assistance category, the IEJF will only consider applications from Illinois-based not-for-profit organizations that:

  • Serve persons in one or both of the two priority areas listed above.
  • Have a program where the principal purpose is delivery of legal services through pro bono volunteers and that primarily utilizes volunteers in their individual areas of legal expertise.
  • Use a delivery model that effectively and efficiently meets client needs.
  • Have the capacity to screen cases, make referrals, and provide the appropriate level of training and support for volunteers.
  • Are staffed by someone with substantive legal knowledge, strong interpersonal skills, time to devote, and strong customer service skills.
  • Identify volunteers who are a good match for the program based on the volunteer’s skills, interest and availability, and the needs of the clients.
  • Establish an intake system and case acceptance criteria appropriate for the program and its volunteers.
  • Have ongoing tracking and other quality assurance measures.
  • Periodically evaluate the effectiveness of the program as well as the satisfaction of clients, referring organizations, and volunteers.
  • Complement and coordinate with other organizations and groups working in the network.
  • Collaborate with relevant stakeholders, including legal aid and public interest organizations, the courts, the private bar, bar associations, law schools, and others.
  • Have malpractice insurance coverage for pro bono volunteers and staff.

 Eligible organizations may submit more than one request under this category, but must submit a separate proposal for each request.

Evaluation Criteria (see criteria listed in Overview Section as well)

Grant applications in the Pro Bono Legal Aid Services category will be evaluated based on:

  • Demonstrated need for the proposed services, as reflected in the number of eligible clients in the applicant’s service area; current unmet demand; and requests for assistance from other community agencies serving the target populations.
  • Demonstrated ability to engage and utilize volunteers to provide quality legal services to clients in need.

Application and Reporting Requirements

All grantees must submit a brief mid-term and a final report on their activities.  The IEJF will provide the report forms in advance of the due date.  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 March 13, 2017. Send copies to ZZarnow@iejf.org and to grants@iejf.org.
  • Midterm report, date to be determined.
  • Final report, date to be determined.

More Information

http://iejf.org/illinois-armed-forces-legal-aid-network/

Contact: Zach Zarnow, Program Director. 312 938 2106. ZZarnow@iejf.org

 

 

02/13/17

Updated 02/21/17