(CHICAGO)….The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) announced awards today of over $1.3 million in grants to 13 not-for-profit organizations providing legal representation, information, and advice to Illinoisans in legal crisis.  The grants range in scope from funding for web-based legal information resources and telephone advice hotlines to mediation and full-scale litigation.  Since its inception in 1999, the IEJF has awarded $20.6 million to organizations across the state serving the civil legal needs of over 524,000 Illinoisans.

 State funding for civil legal aid is appropriated through the Illinois Equal Justice Act and passed through the budget of the Attorney General.  The Act, approved by the General Assembly and signed into law in 1999, recognizes the State’s responsibility to ensure equal access to the legal system.  The Act also created the IEJF to distribute the State’s appropriation for civil legal aid to not-for-profit organizations throughout the state.  The high water mark for the legal aid appropriation was $3.5 million in 2007, which was slashed 50% in 2010.  State funding was cut 20% in fiscal year 2013 to $1.4 million, where it stands today.  Of the ten most populous states, Illinois ranks ninth in what it spends on critical civil legal aid services.  The average spent among the ten most populous states is $13.4 million.

In 2013, the IEJF partnered with The Chicago Bar Foundation and the Social IMPACT Center of the Heartland Alliance to document the economic benefits of legal aid to the state.  The study reported that in 2010 legal aid providers won $49.4 million in monetary awards for low-income clients in Illinois.  Over a quarter of those awards were new federal dollars coming into the state’s economy.  Each dollar spent on civil legal aid in Illinois by governments and private donors was associated with $1.80 in economic benefits for Illinoisans.

“Legal aid is a sound investment of state dollars,” said Daniel P. Broadhurst, president of the IEJF.  “The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation funds civil legal aid programs across the state, ensuring all residents have equal access to the justice system.  These programs build stronger communities and a stronger Illinois.”

Click here for a list of the 2014 grant awards.

To learn more about the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation and the Equal Justice Illinois Campaign, a b-partisan effort to increase the state appropriation for civil legal aid for the poor, visit www.iejf.org or contact Leslie Corbett, Executive Director, at 312-938-2381.