COVID-19 Legal Resources

/COVID-19
COVID-192021-12-06T12:23:24-06:00

CORONAVIRUS/COVID-19 PANDEMIC LEGAL INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

CARPLS has worked with partners in the legal aid community in Illinois to provide free, 24/7, statewide guidance and referrals for people facing some of the most common issues related to COVID-19 through COVID HELP Illinois, an automated tool where anyone can chat with virtual assistants to get up-to-date legal information.

The Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has led to many new laws, regulations, programs and procedures affecting almost every legal subject area and the court system.

CARPLS Legal Aid has created this resource page to share this new information with our clients and the public. This information is for Cook County, lllinois only. If you are located outside of Cook County, this information may not be applicable to you.

THIS PAGE IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT INTENDED AS LEGAL ADVICE IN A SPECIFIC SITUATION.

IT IS UPDATED AS OF December 6, 2021 BUT FURTHER CHANGES TO THE LAW OR PROCEDURES MAY HAVE OCCURRED. IF YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW NEW LAWS, PROGRAMS OR PROCEDURES AFFECT YOU OR YOUR LEGAL PROBLEM, PLEASE CALL CARPLS LEGAL AID HOTLINE AT 312-738-9200. Our experienced attorneys are ready to help you understand your legal situation during the pandemic.

(Topics are organized in alphabetical order)

ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS (City of Chicago)

The Department of Administrative Hearings is at full capacity and in-person hearings are being held at all locations.  
 
You can also contest parking, red light, and automated speed enforcement tickets through the City’s website.  
 
You can also request a virtual hearing for the following types of cases: 
  • Animal Care & Control (AC)
  • Police (CP)
  • Water Management (WM)

CASH BENEFITS under the Federal CARES Act

CARES Act Cash Benefits

CARES stands for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security. The CARES Act was signed into federal law on March 27, 2020. It provides financial aid to individuals and businesses impacted by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

The CARES Act grants a cash benefit of up to $1200 to most Americans.
-Individuals will receive $1200 if they earn up to $75,000 per year.
-Couples who file jointly will receive $2400 if their income is below $150,000.
-A person qualified to receive the payments can get an additional $500 for each dependent child.
-Income above those limits get a lesser benefit.
-Owing back income taxes or being behind in student loans will not disqualify a person from this benefit.
-BUT those with past due child support should not expect this benefit.

Eligible individuals had until November 21, 2020, to file for their federal stimulus aid last year. People who missed this deadline can file a 2020 tax return in 2021 to receive this benefit.

Note: Beware of scams promising a faster payment or asking for personal information. There is no way to expedite the payment, and the IRS will not be calling people to confirm Social Security numbers or banking information. If the IRS cannot get payment to you, it will contact you in writing, NEVER by phone.

The IRS now has a portal where individuals can check the payment status and type. To access the information, you will need to enter a name, date of birth and Social Security Number. You might also need your 2019 tax return. To access the portal, go to https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment. Note that due to high volume, it may take some time for the page to load.

Second Stimulus Payments

The President has signed into law a second stimulus package. The package includes another round of stimulus payments to eligible individuals. Individuals making up to $75,000 a year will receive a $600 payment, and a couple earning up to $150,000 a year will receive twice that amount. If they have dependent children, they would also get $600 for each child. If the children are 17 or older, they will not be eligible for a payment and individuals cannot collect one on their behalf. 

The checks are not taxable. While the payments cannot be garnished to pay delinquent taxes, they may be garnished for a child support arrearage. The IRS started sending out the payments at the end of 2020, but it’s possible that some payments won’t come for several months. Payments will be made by direct deposit, debit card or paper check, depending on how individuals received their first stimulus check.

Also, now, when two people are married and filing taxes jointly and only one spouse has a Social Security number, they will be eligible for a single $600 payment. Each of their children with Social Security numbers will also be eligible for $600. This change is retroactive, which means that a person will be able to use his/her 2020 tax return to claim the payment that the person did not receive in the spring.

Any eligible individual who did not receive the full amount of the stimulus aid can claim a Recovery Rebate Credit on a 2020 Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR. This includes incarcerated individuals, who are eligible to receive to receive both stimulus payments.

Third Stimulus Payments

 

President Biden has signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The Act provides for a third round of stimulus payments will be $1400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible will also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person will need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income will need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number will need to be $150,000 or below. 

To be eligible for a payment, the individual must have a Social Security number. 

College students whom qualifying taxpayers claim as dependents are now eligible for stimulus payments (they weren’t for past payments), but the payment will go to the parent taxpayer, not the child. If claimed as dependents, older relatives are also eligible this time. Again, the payment would go to the qualifying taxpayer, not the dependent adult. 

The most recent year on record at the Internal Revenue Service will determine income-eligibility. If the client has already filed taxes this year, it would be 2020. If not, it would be 2019. Individuals can expect to receive the payment, even if they owe federal or state debt or child support.

Individuals can track the status of their payments by going to https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment.

CONSUMER

If you live in Cook County and are dealing with an unresolved debt issue due to the pandemic, please call Cook County Legal Aid for Housing & Debt at 855-956-5763 or visit www.cookcountylegalaid.org.

Utilities 

Starting April 1, 2021, many utility companies in Illinois began sending disconnection notices to customers who were previously protected by a pandemic-related moratorium on shutoffs. Illinois large utilities are offering bill payment assistance programs and extended deferred payment arrangements (DPA) to eligible low-income residents.  ComEd, Peoples Gas, Nicor and other major utilities are offering bill payment arrangements to eligible customers who call the utility company.  

Customers who receive disconnection notices should call the utility company because they may be eligible for deferred payment arrangements. Residents with household incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level will be offered 18-month payment arrangements with no down payment required. A call to the utility is critical for customers who are facing disconnection or have an arrearage. 

For low-income customers who were disconnected through June 30, 2021, the companies waived reconnection fees. And on or before July 10, 2021, customers with household incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level were able to reconnect by paying 25% of the outstanding balance. Late payment fees and deposits will also be waived. Customers with arrearages of greater than 30 days will be sent communications in English and Spanish about available financial aid. 

Here are resources from CUB, the AG’s office regarding Chicago, and the AG’s office regarding the Rest of the State

A new utilities hotline has been created called Help Illinois Families Assistance hotline and the phone number is 1-833-711-0374. 

Other helpful phone numbers:  Illinois LIHEAP hotline (for residents outside Chicago) 1-877-411-9276.  Residents in Chicago should call 1-800-571-2332 or go online to http://www.ceda.org.  Chicago water customers can also contact Chicago’s Utilities Billing Relief Program at its Customer Service Center at 312-744-4426. 

Due to Covid-19 precautions, some local agencies who serve LIHEAP customers are closed to the public, however they are all taking applications remotely. Customers should contact their agency from the county list https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/CommunityServices/HomeWeatherization/CommunityActionAgencies/Pages/default.aspx for specific information. To obtain the status of an application, customers can use the weblink https://liheap2020.ilenergyassistance.com/customerinquiry/ or call the Illinois LIHEAP Hotline at 1-877-411-9276. 

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program  

This is a temporary program to assist households struggling to afford broadband (internet) service during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The benefit is available to households affected by COVID-19 and to any household under 135% of FPL. It provides a $50/month credit toward a broadband, internet, or wireless bill (each household is eligible for only one). To apply, contact your service provider and request assistance through the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program or find a participating provider through or by calling 833-511-0311. The benefit will continue until funds run out or 6 months after the COVID-19 emergency ends (as declared by the Department of Human Services), whichever is sooner. 

Federal Student Loans

All payments due on federal loans are suspended until at least 1/31/2022. No interest will accrue on federal student loans owned by the US Dept. of Education from 3/13/2020 until 1/31/2022. Interest rates on these loans will be reduced to 0% during this period.The suspension of loan payments only applies to loans held by the United States Department of Education.
 
Federal Family Education Loans and Perkins loans held by entities of that the U.S. Department of Education are not included.Collection actions, wage garnishments and Treasury offsets for defaulted federal student loans are also paused through 1/31/2022.
 
On March 30, 2021, the US Department of Education announced that it will expand the 0% interest rate and pause of collections activity to 1.14 million borrowers who defaulted on a privately-held FFEL Program loan. This action will protect more than 800,000 borrowers who were at risk of having their federal tax refunds seized to repay a defaulted loan. This relief will be made retroactive to March 13, 2020, the start of the COVID-19 national emergency. The Department will work to automatically return any tax refunds seized or wages garnished over the past year. Borrowers who made voluntary payments on any of these loans during the past year will have the option to request a refund of those amounts. The Department will also work with the guaranty agencies, who hold these defaulted FFEL Program loans, to implement the 0% interest rate for these borrowers. In addition, any of these loans that went into default since March 13, 2020, will be returned to good standing. The guaranty agencies that hold those loans will assign them to the Department and request that the credit bureaus remove the record of default.
 
 
Credit Reports
 
Creditors must report your credit status the same as it was before the pandemic. This is the rule even if the creditor has given you a forbearance, workout, or other accommodation.  This rule is in effect from January 31, 2020, until 120 days after the end of the pandemic.
 
 
The COVID-19 crisis has forced many of us to shift priorities, taking care of families, following social distancing measures, and making ends meet. It is also important to keep track of your financial situation. Equifax, Experian and Transunion will continue to offer free weekly credit reporting until after April 20, 2022. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com. You should be monitoring your credit report to protect your financial health during the sudden and unprecedented hardship caused by COVID-19. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, scammers and identity thieves may prey on unsuspecting victims. If you have any questions or disputes about your credit report, please contact CARPLS.
 
Price Gouging
 
If you think someone is illegally overcharging, you can make a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General.
 
Student Loan Debt

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 includes some tax benefits for people whose student loan debt is forgiven during the next five years. Any debt forgiven between 1/1/2021 and 12/31/2025 will be excluded from gross income and thus will not be subject to federal income tax. For now, this will primarily affect people enrolled in income-driven repayment plans who complete the requisite number of years (usually 20 or 25 years) before 12/31/2025. It would also benefit anyone whose loans are forgiven should Congress or the President follow through on talk of enacting a wide-ranging loan forgiveness program.

A virtual assistant bot, called Connie, can help you with consumer COVID-related issues. Go www.covidhelpillinois.org.

COURTS-CIVIL CASES

Courts will reopen for in-person trials on 8/2/21. Masks or other face coverings are required. Also, persons in court must maintain a distance of at least 3 feet. In some cases, proceedings will still be held by Zoom. Paperwork can be filed electronically or in person. To find out how this affects your case, call the CARPLS Legal Aid Hotline.

COURTS-CRIMINAL CASES

Cook County Criminal Courts

Cook County Court to resume jury trials
 
Jury trials that were suspended due to COVID 19 will resume tentatively on 3/22/21 at 26th and California courts and on 3/29/21 at the Bridgeview courthouse. The dates for the other courthouses have not been set. Prospective jurors and everyone entering the courthouse must adhere to the CDC guidelines.
 

Due to COVID 19, all court matters are to be conducted by video conference (zoom) except if the alternative is justified by extraordinary circumstances. 

1. All judges and court employees are to work remotely and judges are to use their discretion. 

2. Self-represented litigants without access to the internet are to use spaces and equipment provided at the courthouse. 

3. No bench trial in criminal cases and no jury trials of any kind shall be held until further order of the court. 

4. Waiver of trial and entry of guilty plea may be conducted by zoom. 

5. Speed trial rules are suspended as a result of this order. 

http://www.cookcountycourt.org/Portals/0/Chief%20Judge/General%20Administrative%20Orders/11.23.2020%20GAO%202020-07.pdf?ver=eFJUo07GvQfX3K2C-v-JdA%3d%3d

Everyone in the courthouse or courtroom must wear face mask and maintain social distancing. Contact CARPLS Legal Aid Hotline as to how this General Order might affect your criminal case, such as rescheduled court dates and emergency motions.

Cook County Jail

Friends and families may now visit inmates at the cook county jail on a modified schedule in-person or through video. All visitors must submit an application for approval and will be screened for COVID-19.

Face Masks

Effective May 1, 2020 a face mask must be worn when a person is in a public place and is unable to maintain a social distance. Executive Order 2020-32. https://www2.illinois.gov/Pages/Executive-Orders/ExecutiveOrder2020-32.aspx

However, a firearm concealed carry license holder may be concerned that compliance with the executive order will violate current law and may expose them to criminal arrest. Current firearm state law prohibits possessing a weapon when a person is masked to conceal their identity. [720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(9)]. http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?DocName=072000050HArt%2E+24&ActID=1876&ChapterID=53&SeqStart=68600000&SeqEnd=72000000

State Police issued a directive that no arrest will be made when someone with a licensed firearm concealed carry is complying with the executive order except when another crime is committed.

The Governor’s Executive Order regarding the wearing of masks or protective facial coverings in public settings during this serious global pandemic was not intended to negatively impact permit holders under the Illinois Concealed Carry Act while legally carrying firearms. The Executive Order does not require or suggest that law enforcement should arrest or criminally charge conceal carry license permit holders for wearing protective masks while in public as long as they are complying with the other provisions of the Illinois Concealed Carry Act and are not committing any other violations of Illinois law. ISP has confidence that law enforcement officers across the state will use appropriate judgment and that elected State’s Attorneys will likewise exercise sound prosecutorial discretion.” https://www.ispfsb.com/Public/FAQ.aspx

IDOC resumes in-person visits
 
Illinois Dept. of Corrections has resumed in-person visitation. Currently, inmates are limited to two visits per month.

EDUCATION

Many Illinois school districts have remote learning this fall, or have a blend of in-person and online instruction.  The Chicago Public School district has started the school year with remote learning, and plans to return to in-person learning in November if conditions are safe.

Free meals can be picked up at Chicago Public Schools. Locations are listed on the CPS website https://cps.edu/OSHW/Pages/mealsites.aspx or by calling 773-553-KIDS (5437). Parents in suburban areas should contact their school district. Families can also find sites by calling (800) 359-2163,  texting “FoodIL” to 877-877. Information about free and low-cost internet access is available  at https://www.digitalinclusion.org/free-low-cost-internet-plans/.

Chicago Public Schools announced in October that it would begin a “phased approach” to reopening schools some time in the new academic quarter, which began Monday, November 9th. The district plans to first bring back prekindergarten and special education students, while requiring social distancing, face masks and temperature checks among other things. Union leaders have been meeting with administrators to discuss how best to deliver remote learning and how to safely reopen schools, but have not reached an agreement on most issues. The union this week sent a letter to CPS requesting an independent mediator be brought in to help with negotiations.

EMPLOYMENT

Leave From Work

Most large employers offer Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when an employee or family member has a medical need. COVID-19 would qualify for this FMLA leave. FMLA is 12 weeks of unpaid leave, with job protection when you return to work.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) was a 2020 federal law that created new types of leave for employees due to COVID-19, but the law changed as of December 21, 2020.  Under the FFCRA now, employer may still offer several kinds of paid and unpaid leave due to COVID-19, if you work for an employer that has fewer than 500 employees or is a governmental employer. Contact CARPLS Legal Aid Hotline to determine what types of leave might be available to you.

The FFCRA also included the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. Employers with fewer than 500 employees and government employers can offer up to 10 days of paid sick leave for the employee to quarantine or seek CoVid-19 treatment. The pay is the employee’s regular rate of pay, but is limited to 2/3 of regular pay if the leave is to care for a family member. Contact CARPLS Legal Aid Hotline to see how this leave might apply to your situation.

Unemployment Benefits

Announcing Benny the Unemployment Virtual Assistant: If you are having an unemployment issue, you can talk 24/7 to Benny, a chat bot created by CARPLS. Go to bennyfits.org for more help and information about Illinois unemployment.

Important update: The federally funded unemployment programs Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) (for the self employed), Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) (extra $300 per week), and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) (extra weeks of benefits), expire on September 4, 2021. Federal funding under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for extended benefits (EB) will end the week ending September 11, 2021.  At this time, there are no plans for any congressional extensions of these benefits.

Those who are laid off, furloughed, terminated, or hours have been substantially cut due to COVID-19 qualify to apply for Illinois unemployment benefits. All applicants must be able and available to work, and meet all the other criteria for unemployment.

Those who are confined to home because they are medically diagnosed with CoVid-19 also qualify. Those who must stay home to care for a spouse, parent or child medically diagnosed with COVID-19 are qualified. Someone under a specific government quarantine also can apply. All applicants must meet all other eligibility requirements.

Those whose child’s school has closed and feels they have to stay home for that reason only do not qualify for unemployment benefits. There may be other types of leave available, however.

Those who quit their jobs over fear of COVID-19 as the only reason for leaving, might qualify for benefits. It will depend on the particular circumstances during this unusual situation of the pandemic.

Starting with the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the federal government added to Illinois’ usual unemployment benefits due to COVID-19.

lllinois unemployment normally runs for 26 weeks.  Through a series of federal laws and extensions, the total number of additional weeks of federal unemployment benefits called “FPEUC” is now 53 weeks, and will expire on September 6, 2021. 
 
Illinois also has “extended benefits” which provides up to 20 additional weeks of benefits during periods of “high unemployment” but as of March 3, 2021, Illinois’ overall unemployment rate improved enough that Illinois is no longer considered in the “high” category, so Illinois extended benefits are now limited to 13 weeks.
 
-Claimants also initially got an additional flat $600 per week (called “PUC”) under the federal CARES Act, which expired on July 31, 2020.  By Presidential Executive Order, a new federal benefit called Lost Wages Assistance (“LWA”) was created which ran for just six weeks, from August 1st to September 5, 2020 when IDES paid an additional net $200 a week to claimants. But LWA was only funded by FEMA for six weeks.  From September to December 2021, there was no “booster” federal benefits, until they were reinstated by federal law on  12/27/2020, at the $300 a week level.  You must be getting some form of unemployment to be eligible for this extra $300.  PUC now expires September 6, 2021.
 For the first time in Illinois, contract, gig and self-employed workers are eligible for benefits due to federal law (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance PUA). Through a series of federal laws and extensions, PUA has been extended up to a total of 79 weeks, and will end on September 6, 2021.
 
-Apply for unemployment benefits online at: https://www2.illinois.gov/ides/Pages/default.aspx 

You need to use a desktop computer, laptop or tablet (no smart phones).

Online filing and applications are unavailable every night from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. for daily claims processing.

You can also apply by telephone at (800) 244-5631.
-As of 7/9/2020, the IDES is now calling back those who call the IDES for any reason, including making a new applications, in order to take callers in the order they were received and minimize hold time. Call the IDES claimant number (800-244-5631), select the right option with the reason for your call and enter all requested information for the automated attendant.  IDES will then call you back, from Monday to Friday, from 7:30 am to 7:00 pm.  Only one pending call back can be in the system at a time.  The call back will come from caller ID  800-244-5631, but if you have call blocker, the number could be blocked.  Be sure to answer your phone when the IDES calls back.  If you miss the call, the IDES staff will leave a voicemail and will try to call back again, shortly thereafter.  If they miss you on the second attempt, you will have to call again, starting the process over again.

–IDES does not have a Customer Service number; all contact to IDES by telephone is through the one central phone number, 800-244-5631.

Workers’ Compensation

A first responder or frontline worker who is diagnosed with CoVid-19 between March 9, 2020 and December 31, 2020, and who files a workers compensation claim, will be presumed to have been exposed to the virus as part of their work.

Employers can offer proof against that presumption in three situations.

1) The worker was working from home or on leave for 14 or more days before the illness.

2) To the best of its ability, the employer was applying industry specific health and safety regulations, sanitation, and social distancing guidelines for at least 14 days before to the illness.

3) The employee was actually exposed to CoVid-19 from another source outside of work.

In these situations, the worker will have to prove that the exposure really did happen at work/during working.

Workplace Safety

Those who feel that their workplace is unsafe or endangering their health due to CoVid-19 can file a complaint with government authorities.

-For private employers, contact federal OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Agency): https://www.osha.gov/pls/osha7/eComplaintForm.html

-For Illinois public employers, contact the Illinois Department of Labor:

https://www2.illinois.gov/idol/Laws-Rules/safety/Documents/IL_OSHA_Complaint_Form.PDF

-Workers can also file a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General Workplace Rights Bureau.

ESTATES/PROBATE

COVID-Related Death Funeral Expenses:  As part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Appropriations Act of 2021, through FEMA, family members of a person who died due to COVID-19 can get money from FEMA for funeral expenses.
 
–The death must have occurred in the United States.
–the death had to have occurred since January 20, 2020.
–The cause of death must state COVID-19 on the death certificate, or if the death certificate doesn’t clearly state COVID as the cause of death, the death certificate must be accompanied by a letter signed by the certifying official on the death certificate, medical examiner, or coroner listing COVID-19 as a cause or contributing cause of death, and provide additional explanation, linking the cause of death on the death certificate with COVID-19.
–The applicant (not the decedent) must be either a U.S. Citizen, a U.S. National or a qualified noncitizen.
–FEMA will not allow expenses that have already been paid for by other source like life insurance, or other government or charitable source.
–Documentation will include claimant’s Social security number, date of birth, and contact information, the deceased’s Social Security number, date of birth, the location/address of the deceased’s death, and documentation or receipts of all expenses and the sources that paid the expenses (ex. charitable organizations).
–Application can be made by co-applicants if more than one person paid for the expenses.
–Once approved, the funds will be distributed to the applicant by paper check or by direct deposit in accordance with the choice indicated on the application.
–The application can be made online at the FEMA website at:  https://www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance

–Or claimants can apply by phone or ask questions at 1-844-684-6333 M to F, 9 am to 9 pm ET.

EVICTION

The Illinois eviction moratorium has now ended. This means that the sheriff may carry out evictions, even in cases of nonpayment of rent. Mediation programs are available to help landlords and tenants avoid the eviction process. Call CARPLS to find out how to make mediation work for you!
 
The Chicago COVID-19 Protection Ordinance expired on 12/3/21.
 
Under the Chicago Fair Notice Ordinance, tenants who have lived at a unit for more than 3 years are now entitled to 120 days of advance notice, tenants of 6 months to 3 years of tenancy are entitled to at least 60 days advance notice, and tenants of fewer than 6 months are entitled to 30 days notice. The ordinance also provides that tenants have until a judge enters an eviction order, to pay any late rent. Rent is still due on time if a tenant wants to avoid the filing of an eviction case in the first place or having to pay the landlord’s filing fees and costs.
 
The new Cook County Landlord and Tenant Ordinance requires 60-days of advance notice in order to end a tenancy. It also allows tenants to pay any late rent up until the time a judge enters an eviction order. Caution: the Ordinance does not apply in Chicago, Oak Park, Evanston or Mount Prospect. Other exclusions apply as well. Contact CARPLS to find out if your tenancy is covered.
 
On 5/17/21, the Governor signed into law the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Act, which requires that all eviction records between March 2020 and March 2022 be sealed upon filing. It requires the sealing of some older eviction cases, too, and it prohibits tenant screening companies from giving out information about sealed eviction records. For more information on what types of cases qualify for sealing, call CARPLS.
 
If you are a college student experiencing homelessness, please visit this guide: College Guide for Students Experiencing Homelessness.
 

FAMILY

Court Cases Pending in Domestic Relations Division
 
All hearings are being held remotely either through Zoom or Telephone. 

Individuals with pending court cases will be receiving postcards in the mail with information regarding their next court date.

If you have been served with a case in Domestic Relations Division and have questions, please call CARPLS!

Orders of Protection and Domestic Violence

Emergency Orders of Protection are set to return on Monday, November 23 through Thursday, December 31st.  These orders will now have return dates between January 4, 2021 through February 11, 2021.

For Plenary Orders of Protection that were set to expire beginning March 17, 2020 through July 3, 2020, Petitioners can electronically file motions to extend the Plenary Order of Protection.

New Petitions for Emergency Orders of Protection are still being heard by the court.
Shelters are still safe and offering assistance to individuals. List of shelters in Cook County can be found at https://www.cookcountysheriff.org/courts/civil-services/social-services/emergency-shelter-domestic-violence/

If you are in danger, contact the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline at (877) 863-6338.
Contact CARPLS Legal Aid Hotline if you are facing domestic violence at this time. Legal aid is assisting victims of domestic violence with petitions for orders of protection during the pandemic.

The City of Chicago has announced a program offering free hotel rooms for victims of domestic violence during the pandemic. Those who need to flee domestic violence can call or text the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline at (877) 863-6338.

Parenting Time

Even with the Illinois “stay-at-home” order in place, parenting time orders are still in effect and must be followed. Transporting a child to/from parenting time is considered essential travel. The only exception would be if the child or a parent is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

Child Support

Until further notice, our visitor and walk-in policy has temporarily changed.  Individuals can access their cases via the Illinois Healthcare and Family Services (IHFS) website:
https://www.illinois.gov/hfs/ChildSupport/Pages/covid19updates.aspx. To protect our customers and employees due to the COVID-19, the Department is not allowing visitors and walk-ins into our child support offices.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your child support case you may easily view your child support case by selecting the “on-line services” option on this page where you will be prompted to enter your RIN and PIN.  If you do not have one and need assistance, the best way to contact us is through e-mail.  You may select the “contact webmaster” option in the lower section of this page or send an e-mail to: vog.s1638830475ionil1638830475li@pl1638830475eHtro1638830475ppuSd1638830475lihC.1638830475SFH1638830475 or vog.s1638830475ionil1638830475li@re1638830475tsamb1638830475ew.sf1638830475h1638830475

To expedite handling of your inquiry, please include the last 4 digits of your social security number, date of birth and a telephone number where we may reach you if necessary.

For more information, contact the Customer Service Call Center at 1-800-447-4278.  Our wait times may be higher than normal, so you may be asked to call back later.

Child support payments can still be mailed directly to State Disbursement Unit or made with credit card by calling (888) 645-6348.

Effective 11/19/2020, there will be no body attachment orders executed for failure to pay child support and maintenance for the next 60 days (until January 22, 2021). 

Mediation

Mediation can be used to work out parenting or financial issues and can be done by using the Consolidated Referral Order: http://www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org/Forms/pdf_files/CCDRN009.pdf

PUBLIC BENEFITS

Food stamps

 

 
Beginning in October, almost all SNAP households will see an increase in their SNAP benefits. The changes will go into effect automatically. Households do not have to apply for the increase. Emergency food stamp allotments will continue until further notice. This means if a household’s monthly SNAP benefit is less than the maximum SNAP benefit for the household size, the household should get an extra benefit up to the maximum SNAP benefit.

 

 
Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) is available to households in which children are receiving free or reduced-fee meals at school. The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) will begin issuing P-EBT for the months of April 2021 through June 2021 beginning 09/14/2021. The P-EBT benefit amount for each eligible child for April 2021 through June 2021 is $88.66 for each eligible month.

To check eligibility for SNAP, use this food stamp calculator: https://fscalc.dhs.illinois.gov/FSCalc/calculateFS.do
Emergency food stamps are available to qualifying applicants. Most IDHS offices are currently closed, so applying for SNAP should be done online at www.abe.illinois.gov, rather than going to a local IDHS office. Maximum benefit amounts, as well as maximum monthly income allowable, may be found here: https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=33412 SNAP recipients do not need to meet work and training requirements at this time.

Basic Income Pilot Program

Chicago’s city council has approved a basic-income pilot program. The program will give 5,000 low-income households $500 per month for one year. Individuals must earn less than $35,000 per year to qualify. Participants will be chosen at random. Information about the application process will be posted here once applications for the program open.

HEALTHCARE COVERAGE (PRIVATE)

If your household has low or very low income, you may qualify for Medicaid, which is a free government insurance program for qualifying individuals. Check your eligibility for Medicaid here: 
 
Illinois residents who do not have health insurance may enroll in an Affordable Care Act (ACA) Health Insurance Marketplace plan. Enrollment is possible during Open Enrollment and during a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). The last day to enroll in or change insurance plans for 2022 coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace is December 15, 2021. The SEP in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic also ended August 15, 2021. Certain life events may still qualify a person for an SEP. For a list of such events, go to: https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/GetCovered/Enroll/Pages/Special-Enrollment.aspx.
 
The American Rescue Plan signed by President Biden on March 10, 2021, makes important changes to the ACA, including changing the eligibility for, and amount of, subsidies available. To calculate the amount of their subsidy, individuals may visit: https://www.kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator
 
Note that these changes do not require people to re-enroll to access the lower prices, but individuals can go to healthcare.gov and update their account to get the higher tax credits going forward. 

HOMEOWNERSHIP

Mortgage assistance

Mortgage and utility assistance is coming soon. Continue checking this space for details.

There are other options for keeping a home out of foreclosure. It’s important to keep in touch with your loan servicer if you cannot make your monthly payment. Homeowners who have problems contacting their loan servicers may contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ for help.
 
If you are concerned about losing your home, contact a HUD-approved housing counseling agency. HUD-approved counseling agencies can help you figure out your options and guide you through the paperwork and process of working with your servicer. To find a HUD-counseling counselor in your area, go to: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/find-a-housing-counselor/.
 
To learn more about options for avoiding foreclosure, contact a HUD-certified housing counselor by calling the Homeowners HOPE Hotline 1-888-995-HOPE (4673).

To apply, go to: https://www.nhschicago.org/mortgageassistance/index.aspx. For help with the application, call 800-831-7949 or send an email to %gro.o1638830475gacih1638830475CSHN@1638830475ecnat1638830475sissA1638830475ycneg1638830475remE0163883047521638830475.

For other financial assistance, contact 311 (for Chicago residents) or, for suburban Cook County, call the Homeless Prevention Call Center at (877) 426-6515.

Call CARPLS if you have questions about your mortgage.

Property Taxes

If homeowners believe they are entitled to an exemption that is not reflected on their tax bill, they can apply for a Certificate of Error. Certificate of Error applications are currently being accepted for tax years 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, and may be filed online at https://www.cookcountyassessor.com/certificates-error?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery, by mail, or in person. Homeowners are encouraged to apply online, as representatives from the Assessor’s Office can provide updates on the status of applications.

For a list of common exemptions, go to: https://www.cookcountytreasurer.com/homeownerexemption.aspx

IMMIGRATION

Many USCIS field offices and asylum offices have re-opened to the public. Visitors may not enter a USCIS facility without a face covering, undergoing a health screening, and complying with social distancing policies. Naturalization ceremonies, asylum interviews, and other appointments that were cancelled during the closure will be rescheduled.

USCIS has announced that ICE will not conduct enforcement activities in any health care settings and will focus enforcement on known public-safety risks and individuals subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds. Undocumented immigrants should not avoid seeking medical care because they fear immigration enforcement.

President Trump has suspended some categories of immigration into the United States until at least December 31, 2020. This prevents the issuance of new immigrant visas (greencards) and non-immigrant visas (H-1B, H-2B, J-1 and L-1). This doesn’t apply to people already in the United States, and there are a number of exceptions. For more information, contact CARPLS.

RENTAL ASSISTANCE

 
Help with rental applications is available in Cook County courtrooms. To get connected with rental assistance, tenants in eviction court can ask the judge for a referral to the Early Resolution Program (ERP).
 
Chicago residents may also apply for rental assistance at allchicago.org. The application is open to households in Chicago under certain income limits who can show they they’ve been financially affected by COVID-19. Tenants and landlords who need help with the application or who do not have internet access should call 311 and ask for “short term help.”
 
The Illinois Department of Human Services rental assistance program offers up to 15 months of rental payments to cover back-rent owed from June 2020 through August 2021. To qualify, the household must have experienced financial hardship due to the pandemic, and the household must be behind on rent and/or is at risk of experiencing homelessness. Income eligibility requirements also apply. For more information and help applying for assistance, tenants should contact an IDHS service provider. A list of service providers is available at https://www.illinoisrentalassistance.org/providers.
 
The application window for the Illinois Rental Payment Program has been delayed. Applications will now be accepted from Monday, Dec. 6 through 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Jan 9 at illinoishousinghelp.org.
 
The program will offer up to $25,000 in rental assistance to cover up to 15 months of past-due rent and up to 3 months of future rent payments. The first payouts are scheduled to begin in December. Both tenants and landlords can apply. Tenants who live in public or other subsidized housing, or who receive a Section 8 or other Housing Choice Voucher, are also eligible to apply. No citizenship requirements apply. Note: you must have a valid email address in order to apply. For assistance, call a Housing Stability Service Provider by calling (866) 454-3571.
 

SMALL BUSINESS

 

Financial Assistance through the Federal Government

In addition to traditional Small Business Association (SBA) funding programs, the CARES Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, established new temporary programs to address the COVID-19 outbreak. SBA is offering these programs:

· Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) This was created through The American Rescue Plan Act to provide funding to help restaurants and other eligible businesses keep their doors open. Provides funding equal to the business’ pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business, and no more than $5 million per physical location. Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used for eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023.

· COVID-19 Economic Injury Loans (EIDL) provides economic relief to small businesses and non-profits through loans up to $2 million which are experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. The SBA began approving loans greater then $500,000 as of 10/8/21.

· SBA Community Advantage Loan Program A community-based, mission-focused lenders meet the credit, management and technical assistance needs of small businesses in underserved markets, providing loans up to $250,000. Program expires 9/30/2022.

· SBA Debt Relief program will pay 6 months of principal, interest, and any fees for certain loans disbursed prior to September 27, 2020. On December 27, 2020, the Economic Aid Act revised the eligibility criteria for assistance to include all 7(a), 504, and Microloans approved up to September 27, 2020, even if not fully disbursed. This relief is not applicable for EIDL loans.

· Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) This program ended on 5/31/2021.

· Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVO) This program ended 8/20/21.

· SBA Express Bridge Loan This program ended 3/13/2021.

Financial Assistance through the State of Illinois

Illinois’s Small Business Development Centers across the state will be available to assist business with accessing available supports for those impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic:

· The Illinois Emergency Small Business Grants and Loan Assistance will offer some small businesses low interest loans of up to $50,000. Businesses located outside of the City of Chicago, with fewer than 50 workers and less than $3 million in revenue in 2019, will be eligible to apply.

· Downstate Small Business Stabilization Program This program has ended.

· State Treasurer’s Small Business COVID-19 Relief Program has made up to $500 million in deposits available to banks and credit unions throughout Illinois, at near-zero rates. The Treasurer’s Office partners with approved financial institutions to provide loans to businesses and non-profits.

TAXES

Paid Leave Credit for Vaccines — The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) allows small and midsize employers, and certain governmental employers, to claim refundable tax credits that reimburse them for the cost of providing paid sick and family leave to their employees due to COVID-19, including leave taken by employees to receive or recover from COVID-19 vaccinations. The ARP tax credits are available to eligible employers that pay sick and family leave for leave from April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021. www.irs.gov/coronavirus/employer-tax-credits

Employee Retention Credit — The Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020, enacted December 27, 2020, amended and extended the employee retention credit (and the availability of certain advance payments of the tax credits) under section 2301 of the CARES Act until June 30, 2021. The American Rescue Plan Act, enacted March 11, 2021, added section 3134 to the Internal Revenue Code to amend and extend the employee retention credit (and the availability of certain advance payments of the tax credits) until December 31, 2021. www.irs.gov/coronavirus/employer-tax-credits Sick and Family Leave Credits — COVID-19-Related Tax Credits for Required Paid Leave Provided by Small and Midsize Businesses: COVID-19-Related Tax Credits for Required Paid Leave Provided by Small and Midsize Businesses. The COVID-Related Tax Relief Act of 2020, enacted December 27, 2020, amended and extended the tax credits for paid sick and family leave under sections 7001-7005 of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. www.irs.gov/coronavirus/employer-tax-credits

TAX FILING FOR 2021

The deadline for filing 2020 Federal and Illinois taxes was May 17, 2021, but it’s not too late to file a tax return to claim missing stimulus money. If a taxpayer doesn’t owe any Federal taxes, then that taxpayer can file a return after the deadline without a penalty. Taxpayers have up to 3 years to claim their refund. For more information and tax assistance, visit: https://getmypaymentil.org/tax-help/

Under the CARES Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, the stimulus payments will not be counted as taxable income for recipients, as the rebate is a credit against tax liability, and is refundable for taxpayers with no tax liability to offset.

The 10% penalty for taking early distributions from qualified retirement plans, including IRAs and 401(k)s, is waived for qualified individuals. The waiver applies to distributions taken between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020. Up to $100,000 of distributions can avoid the penalty.

Unemployment benefits are taxable income. This means that any unemployment compensation that you receive from a state or the federal government must be included in your income and will be taxed at your ordinary income tax rate.

If you had more earned income in 2019 than in 2020, you can use your 2019 income for purposes of claiming your Earned Income Tax Credit thanks to the Taxpayer Uncertainty and Disaster Relief Act of 2020. This is especially helpful if you lost your job during 2020 and might not otherwise qualify for the benefit in 2020. Information is available at https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/new-option-for-claiming-the-earned-income-tax-credit-and-additional-child-tax-credit.

Child Tax Credit

The American Rescue Act of 2021 has temporarily increased the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Households with incomes under $150,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return, under $75,000 for single households and $112,500 for head of household will now qualify for a $3600 tax credit for children under 6 and $3000 for children between ages 6 and 17.

Taxpayers can expect early payments from the IRS of 50 percent of the estimated amount of the CTC that taxpayers may properly claim on their 2021 tax returns during the 2022 tax filing season. If the IRS has processed the taxpayer’s 2020 tax return or 2019 tax return, these monthly payments will be made starting July 15 and through December 2021, based on the information contained in that return. Families will receive the full credit even if they earn too little to owe income tax. Also, receiving CTC payments will not affect the taxpayer’s eligibility for other government programs.

Note: the taxpayer — or the taxpayer’s spouse, if married filing a joint return — must have a Social Security number (SSN) or an IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

The IRS has a portal where taxpayers can view their eligibility for the Child Tax Credit, view advance payments and unenroll from getting advance payments: https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/child-tax-credit-update-portal.

The IRS urges everyone to be on the lookout for scam artists trying to use advance Child Tax Credit payments as a cover for schemes to steal personal information and money. The IRS doesn’t initiate contact by email, text messages, or social media channels to request personal or financial information – even information related to advance Child Tax Credit payments. Also, watch out for emails with attachments or links claiming to have special information about advance Child Tax Credit payments or refunds of the Child Tax Credit.

Earned Income Tax Credit

The earned income tax credit is temporarily expanded under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This credit benefits workers without children. The maximum credit for 2021 will be $1,502, up from the previous maximum of $543. The income threshold has also increased: an individual earning up to $9,820 this year now qualifies for the maximum credit (up from $4,220 in prior years). Eligibility begins to phase out for those who earn more than $11,610. Anyone ages 19-65 can qualify for the credit; the previous minimum age was 24. Taxpayers will claim the credit in 2022 when they file their 2021 returns. www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/individuals/earned-income-tax-credit-eitc

TRAFFIC/VEHICLES

Cook county courthouses now have “zoom rooms” for people don’t have computers or access to zoom.

http://www.cookcountycourt.org/MEDIA/View-Press-Release/ArticleId/2806/-Zoom-Rooms-available-at-most-courthouses-to-help-litigants-without-phone-computer-access

SOS facilities are now open for transactions.

City of Chicago Ticket and other payment plans

Effective July 1, 2020, the city of Chicago resumed enforcement of vehicle violations that were suspended due to COVID 19. Street cleaning violation started July 1, 2020; Vehicle booting started July 6, 2020; City sticker and residential parking permit violations will start on July 16, 2020; Expired vehicle registration enforcement will start on October 2, 2020.

Expiration Dates

Expired driver’s license and state ID card are extended to 1/1/22.

Felony Criminal Plea Hearings by Zoom only during COVID-19

Effective May 4, 2020 (until further notice) criminal plea hearings will only be done by Zoom. Preference is given to the following negotiated pleas where: 1) person in the custody or house arrest and is getting probation; 2) person in custody or house arrest and is receiving a “turn around” prison time; 3) felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor disposition. 
http://www.cookcountycourt.org/Portals/0/Criminal%20Division/COVID-19/Procedure%20for%20Remote%20Plea%20Hearings.pdf?ver=2020-04-29-130914-147

Illinois Tolls

Illinois Tollway Permanently Eliminates Cash Payments
 
Existing toll violation fines prior to 3/9/20 are each reduced to $3 through 9/3/21. Payment can be made online with the violation notice number.
 

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW THESE NEW LAWS, PROGRAMS OR PROCEDURES AFFECT YOU OR YOUR LEGAL PROBLEM, PLEASE CALL CARPLS LEGAL AID HOTLINE AT 312-738-9200. Our experienced attorneys are ready to help you understand your legal situation during the pandemic.