A new Early Resolution Program (ERP) that will provide legal help for thousands of people in Cook County facing eviction and consumer debt issues was officially launched yesterday at a press conference hosted by the County.
The program is part of a broader new initiative for housing and debt issues, Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt (CCLAHD). Cook County is providing initial seed funding for the ERP through a $1 million allocation from its federal CARES Act funds and has committed to funding the program longer-term through other County revenue sources. The City of Chicago Department of Housing is also providing key funding for legal assistance in eviction cases.
The new Early Resolution Program features access to free legal help and mediation through a number of CBF partners, including CARPLS, the Center for Conflict Resolution, Legal Aid Chicago, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, Greater Chicago Legal Clinic, Center for Disability & Elder Law, and the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services. The Chicago Bar Association is also a partner in the program.
For eviction and consumer debt cases filed in the Circuit Court, the Court will institute an active case management process that will ensure people without lawyers have access to free legal aid resources and that parties have an opportunity to try to resolve the matter at the outset of the case. The case management hearings and the attendant legal and mediation services will all be available remotely via Zoom so that no one needs to come to court, making services more accessible throughout the County. Cases that cannot be resolved at this stage would then move forward in the normal course.
The other key aspect of the new program will be community outreach and community partnerships to help educate people about their rights and connect them to the legal aid and mediation services available through the program.
More information about the initiative and how people can connect to legal help is available at https://www.cookcountylegalaid.org/.