Access to Justice is Critical to the Residents of Illinois The Honorable Philip J. Rock and the Honorable James R. Thompson, Co-Chairs
FUNDING CUT 20% IN FY 13 BUDGET. PLEASE ACT NOW TO RESTORE VITAL FUNDING FOR CIVIL LEGAL AID.
Legal Aid Provides a Critical Safety Net for Residents of Illinois
- With the passage of the Illinois Equal Justice Act in 1999, Illinois recognized its responsibility to provide equal access to the justice system. The Act established a state appropriation for civil legal aid and formed the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) to distribute state funds to legal aid providers across the state. Funding for the IEJF comes from an appropriation through the Attorney General’s Office.
- The IEJF funds not-for-profit programs that help low-income families, seniors, children with disabilities and veterans meet their basic human needs. These programs address mortgage foreclosure, domestic violence, elder abuse, homelessness, veterans’ benefits, special education, consumer fraud and predatory lending.
- In 2011, the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation awarded $1.66M in grants to 16 not-for-profit organizations across the state. These programs served the critical legal needs of over 26,800 low-income people. These funds also provided user-friendly web-based legal information resources that were accessed more than 281,000 times.
A Solid Investment for the State
- In 2010, legal aid providers won $49.4M in monetary awards for low income clients including child support, Social Security and unemployment benefits and relief from payments to predatory lenders. $11.9M of this relief was in benefits paid by the federal government. These awards were associated with $9.3M in economic demand for goods and services, $5.4M in household income and 172 new non-legal aid jobs.
- Legal aid cases that obtained protective orders, divorces and child custody avoided $9.4M in costs of domestic violence to individuals.
- Legal aid cases that protected housing via eviction and foreclosure defense and increased rental subsidies avoided $1.9M in costs to the homeless shelter system.
The State Needs to Maintain Funding for the Illnois Equal Justice Foundation
- State funding was cut 20% to $1.4M in the FY 13 budget. In FY 10, the appropriation for civil legal aid was slashed 50%. These cuts come at a time when a record number of poor and newly poor Illinoisans need legal aid.
- Any additional cuts to the appropriation would cripple the legal aid system. Federal funding for legal aid was cut 15% this year with Illinois losing $2M. There are less than 400 legal aid attorneys to help the more than 1.7 million Illinois residents living in poverty.
- Among the ten most populous states, Illinois ranks ninth when it comes to funding legal aid, spending $1.75 million compared to the average $11.7 million on these critical service.
- Illinois must do its share, in partnership with the federal government, the private sector and the legal community, to ensure that no one is denied access to justice.
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