With the COVID-19 outbreak impacting almost every facet of everyday life, we want to let you know that affordable legal aid is available during these difficult times. Navigating the legal system can be stressful under ordinary circumstances, and this crisis has put vulnerable populations at higher risk of housing insecurity, domestic violence and job loss. Having an effective advocate improves outcomes for those most in need, and there are organizations in our community that can help.
There are a variety of legal aid clinics and community-based organizations offering assistance to individuals with a wide-range of issues such as public benefits, housing laws, and healthcare. These resources can be accessed both through the internet and phone and are either low cost or free.
Whether you or someone you know is in need of assistance, here are some things that are important to know during this crisis:
- The state has put a moratorium on evictions (as well as utility disconnections) while Illinois’ Stay at Home Order is in place, which is currently set through April 30. However, you are still responsible for paying your rent and bills. For additional information on rental or mortgage assistance, see below for Housing FAQ.
- Debt collectors are not allowed to visit you in person. Please be advised that they can still call you via phone.
- The Illinois Attorney General’s Office has compiled a list of legal aid providers offered across the state. Click here to learn more.
- The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation has compiled a list of legal aid hotlines for people in need during this pandemic. You can access the list here.
- The Lawyer’s Committee for Better Housing is offering housing-specialized assistance. Though their offices are currently closed, they are conducting business via phone. You can learn more here.
- Open Communities offers free housing counseling and education as well as legal representation in evictions, foreclosures, and housing discrimination cases. Click here to learn more.
- The North Suburban Legal Aid provides accessible pro-bono legal services focused on immigration, domestic violence, and housing issues. You can learn more here.
- I have put together a comprehensive source of COVID-19 related resources on my website. Click here to take a look.
No one is immune to the impacts of this pandemic, and I want to thank all of you for doing your part to keep our community safe. Whether it’s by staying home to reduce the spread, volunteering on our team to make wellness calls or donating to organizations serving those most vulnerable in our community, you are making the difference that will get us through these unprecedented times.
If we can help you at all, do not hesitate to reach out on Facebook, via email at Info@GongGershowitz.com, or by calling my office at (847) 486-8810.
I’m #AllinIllinois – let’s do this together. Volunteer to make wellness calls here.
Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz
Call 4 Calm
The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) has launched a free-of-charge emotional support text line, Call4Calm, for folks experiencing stress and mental health issues related to COVID-19.
If you want to speak with a mental health professional, simply text “TALK” to 552020, or for Spanish, “HABLAR” to the same number: 552020.
Call4Calm is free to use, and individuals will remain anonymous. Once you send a text to the hotline, within 24 hours you will receive a call from a counselor from a local community mental health center to provide support.
You can also text 552020, with key words such as “unemployment” or “food” or “shelter” and will receive information on how to navigate and access supports and services.
Q: If I believe I may be unable to pay my rent, who should I contact?
A: There has been no suspension of rent payments for Chicago or the State of Illinois. This means tenants are still obligated to pay their rent per the terms of their lease.
IHDA encourages those struggling to make payments to reach out to a housing counselor. HUD- approved counseling agency can help you understand your options if you are in risk of falling behind on your rent. [Open Communities is a HUD-approved agency located in Evanston serving the northern Cook Co suburbs]
Q: Does IHDA administer any rental assistance?
A: No, IHDA does not offer direct rental assistance. The Illinois Department of Human Services does offer a Homeless Prevention Program which includes rental assistance. For more information, click here.
The Rental Housing Support Program provides rental assistance to extremely low-income households living in participating properties. Contact one of the administering agencies https://www.ihda.org/rental-housing/ directly to apply.
The City of Chicago administers its own version of the Rental Housing Support Program. If you currently live in or are interested in living in Chicago and are in need of rental assistance, please contact the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund at: (312) 744-0676.
Q: Does the CARES Act mean I don’t have to make my mortgage payment?
A: If you can pay your mortgage, pay your mortgage on time. If you are struggling to make your mortgage payments, or believe you may fall behind soon, you should contact your loan servicer now.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allows a borrower with a Federally-backed mortgage loan experiencing a financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the COVID–19 emergency may request forbearance on the Federally-backed mortgage loan, regardless of delinquency status.
The forbearance shall be granted for up to 180 days and shall be extended for an additional period of up to 180 days at the request of the borrower.
DCEO Small Business Webinar
The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is partnering with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce to host webinars for small businesses and lawmakers as we deal with the COVID-19 crisis. Director Erin Guthrie and her team will answer questions and discuss state and federal programs that are being offered to small businesses during this situation.
If you would like to participate, you will find the date and time for the Northern Cook region:
Tuesday, April 14 for Northern Cook
- 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (You can register for the webinar using this link: https://zoom.us/s/346358497 or email firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you are unable to participate, I encourage you to visit www2.illinois.gov/dceo/ for up to the date information on resources and emergency assistance available for small businesses.