Despite recent study demonstrating economic benefit to Illinois

(Chicago)…The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) reports that the state appropriation for civil legal aid was cut 20% from $1.75 million to $1.4 million in the budget recently passed by the General Assembly. The appropriation was slashed 50% from $3.5 million in 2010.

This latest cut comes a week after a study was released detailing the economic benefits that civil legal aid provides the state. The report, Legal Aid in Illinois: Selected Social and Economic Benefits, was commissioned by the Chicago Bar Foundation and the IEJF and researched by the Social IMPACT Research Center. It provides a snapshot of the economic return legal aid providers produce for their low-income clients and the state at large. Using a selection of approximately 8,000 cases closed in 2010 by just seven of 38 legal aid providers in the state, the researchers found that:

  • Legal aid providers won $49.4 million in monetary awards for low-income clients. Examples of monetary awards are child support and alimony, public benefits like Social Security and unemployment insurance, and relief from illegal charges by a landlord or payment to a predatory lender.
  • Legal aid providers won $11.9 million in benefits wholly or partially paid for by the federal government. It is estimated that these awards were associated with $9.3 million in demand for goods and services, $5.4 million in household income, and 172 non-legal-aid jobs.
  • By preventing or obtaining more time in foreclosures or evictions, obtaining, protecting, or increasing rental subsidies, and assisting clients with other housing issues, legal aid providers avoided $1.9 million in costs to homeless shelters.
  • By obtaining protective orders, divorces, child custody, and legal recognition for noncitizens experiencing abuse, legal aid providers avoided $9.4 million in costs of domestic violence to individuals.

The IEJF was created with the passage of the Illinois Equal Justice Act in 1999 to distribute the state appropriation for civil legal aid. The IEJF provides grants to non-profit legal aid providers across the state to provide representation, mediation, advice and referral via the telephone and legal information via court and community-based self-help desks. Since its inception, IEJF funds have served over 470,000 of our most vulnerable neighbors.

“Our grantee organizations afford access to the justice system for clients facing eviction and foreclosure, domestic violence, termination of vital benefits, and other threats to the health and safety of themselves and their families, said Karen Hasara, President of the IEJF. These groups already operate on a shoe string. This disproportionate cut will leave them with no shoes at all.”

In addition to the 20% cut in state funding, federal funding for civil legal aid was cut 15%. Illinois lost $2 million in federal civil legal aid dollars this year. The result have been lay-offs in the legal aid community and decreased service for low-income people in legal crisis.

To learn more about the IEJF, please see www.iejf.org . A copy of Legal Aid in Illinois: Selected Social and Economic Benefits can be found on the site as well.

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PDF: Press Release – Civil Legal Aid Cut 20% in State Budget