As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the livelihoods of many, residents in Cook County may find some relief with the recent launch of Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt (CCLAHD). The county-wide initiative focuses on helping residents resolve eviction, foreclosure, debt, and tax deed issues.
Affordable housing has been an issue across the country for some time but the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated challenges, particularly among the city’s most vulnerable residents. In a recent press release, Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans highlighted the need for such a program, saying, “It is our hope that this program will help to level the legal playing field during these troubled economic times. By offering assistance to those who need it most, Cook County is showing its commitment to fostering fair resolutions for all.”
Providing Aid to Those in Need
The CCLAHD initiative will kick off with the Early Resolution Program (ERP). The ERP provides free legal assistance, pre-court mediation, counseling, and case management for Cook County residents who face eviction or consumer debt issues. Offered on a pro-bono basis through legal aid and community partners, these services intend to support Cook County residents who don’t have other means of legal representation and who: 1) are dealing with eviction issues (tenants and landlords), 2) face unpaid debts (debtors and creditors), and 3) have defaulted on property tax payments or mortgage foreclosure payments.
A key aspect of the program is its community outreach aimed at educating the public about its rights and connecting people in need with legal aid and mediation services. The Chicago Bar Foundation has played a key role in the development of the program and will continue to act as the lead coordinator between the government and legal aid partners like CARPLS, the Center for Conflict Resolution, the Legal Aid Society, and more.
“This partnership between the County, the Court, and a network of outstanding legal aid and community partners is sure to help many thousands of County residents,” said Chicago Bar Foundation Executive Director Bob Glaves.
Funding Legal Aid in Cook County
The CARES Act is providing initial funding for the ERP program, but Cook County has committed to supporting the CCLAHD program after the pandemic subsidies through federal Community Development Block Grant dollars, County Corporate Funds, philanthropic support, and revenue collected through the foreclosure filing fee.
During this difficult time, programs that provide legal aid to Cook County residents may provide a bit of hope for those in need. More information about the initiative and how people can connect to legal help is available at https://www.cookcountylegalaid.org/.
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