If Legal Aid Disappeared . . .
You pay attention to the news, right? Doesn’t it sometimes feel like the world is filled with nothing but pain and destruction?
It can be easy to feel hopeless, but we can stop bad things from happening to good people. Bad things like:
- Families losing their homes and ending up on the streets;
- Women being trapped in violent relationships;
- Elderly homeowners getting scammed by predatory contractors;
- Parents losing care for their critically ill child because of a bureaucratic mistake.
The organizations supported by the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation have helped clients in all of these situations and many, many more. The civil justice system is a powerful tool for stopping devastating events. Don’t we have a responsibility to use it to bring about good in the world?
Via a state appropriation, the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) funds civil legal aid programs across Illinois, ensuring that all residents, regardless of income, have equal access to the justice system. From 2001 to 2015, the IEJF provided $23.3 million in state-funded grants to legal aid organizations across Illinois serving the critical civil legal needs of over 560,000 low-income families, seniors and veterans.
The IEJF civil legal aid appropriation was not included in the stop-gap budget passed on June 30, 2016. Two years without a state appropriation for civil legal aid has meant vulnerable people faced with the legal crises outlined above have struggled to find help. Legal aid programs are downsizing and courts are overwhelmed with self-represented people at the same time that social services and educational resources funded by the state are vanishing. Low-income Illinoisans have few avenues for assistance.
The IEJF believes it is imperative to educate the public, the legislature and Governor Rauner about the reality of an Illinois without a civil legal aid system. A reinvigorated advocacy campaign will launch in February with the goal of reinstating funding for this vital appropriation. There is a role for you in this effort. Stay tuned for how you can get involved in ensuring access to justice for all Illinoisans.