To the Editor:
One of our nation’s fundamental principles is justice for all. However, not everyone has access to the justice system, primarily because of income. Tens of thousands of Illinoisans cannot afford the legal help they need when facing potentially life changing situations — leaving many to navigate these complex situations on their own.
Since 2001, the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) has awarded $23.3 million in state-funded grants to nonprofit organizations, assisting over 560,000 vulnerable families, seniors and veterans impacted by domestic violence, foreclosure, loss of veteran’s benefits and consumer fraud.
However, the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation’s civil legal aid appropriation was not included in the stopgap budget — leaving almost 36,000 Illinoisans without the legal aid they need. These legal services help keep low-income families and seniors housed, safe, and economically independent. Quite frankly, these services are in jeopardy.
Civil legal aid ensures that organizations provide residents with access to legal representation, legal information, self-help legal assistance, telephone advice and referral services, and mediation services. Without a state budget that includes money for legal aid, people across Illinois in need of legal services will be vulnerable every day.
As members of the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, we are calling on the state to do its part and reinstate the funding for civil legal aid. Join us in supporting Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s budget request for the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation.
Gery J. Chico
Illinois Equal Justice Foundation