COVID-19 Legal Resources

/COVID-19
COVID-192020-07-30T18:06:09-05:00

CORONAVIRUS/COVID-19 PANDEMIC LEGAL INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

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 July 30, 2020 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 is having some in-person hearings, at 400 W. Superior only.  Right now, only the following types of cases have hearings:  DS (Department of Streets & Sanitation); WG (Wage garnishment cases); TX (Tax related cases); and WD (Water Department cases)  Check your docket number to see if you have one of these cases.
If you have one of these cases and you don’t go to the hearing, the court will continue your case and mail a new court date to you.
If your case is not one these cases, the court will mail a new court date to you.
Motion to Set Aside hearings are held on Fridays, at 400 W. Superior.

Check the website for updates: https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/ah.html.

-No adverse action will be taken for not appearing on a court date.
-If you missed court and a judgment was entered, you can file a Motion to Set Aside Default by email or fax.  To get the motion form, click here: https://www.chicago.gov/content/dam/city/depts/ah/general/MTSA.pdf. File by email to: .gro.1596526645ogaci1596526645hcfoy1596526645tic@A1596526645STM-H1596526645A1596526645 File by fax to: 312/742-8222. Include your phone number on the motion.

For parking ticket matters: Boot hearings and Motions to Set Aside a Default Judgment will be held at 4445 N. Pulaski and 2006 E. 95th Street.  Hours: M-F 8:00-4:00.

The Central Hearing Facility at 400 W. Superior will hold boot hearings only.  Hours:  M-F 8:30-4:30; Sat 9:00-3:00.

Effective August 7, Vacant Building (13-12-125) and Watchman (13-12-140) violations that are scheduled to be heard in Courtroom 105 at 400 W. Superior will be held the first Friday of each month, in Courtroom 105.

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.

Those who have not filed federal tax returns in the past two tax years, but were required to do so, should file a return immediately with Free File, a free tax preparation program that can be found on the IRS’ website: https://www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free. Those individuals who were are not required to file taxes in 2018 or 2019, due to low income, should use the form available here: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here. Those who get benefits from Social Security, the cash benefit will be based on statements from Social Security and will be deposited into the account on file with Social Security. You must have a valid Social Security Number in order to be eligible for this benefit! Payments should go out in early May. Paper checks will take longer. Those who do not have a bank account or who have no direct deposit information on file with the IRS will receive a paper check. Eligible individuals have until October 15th to file for their federal stimulus aid this year. People who miss this deadline can also file a 2020 tax return next year to receive the payment in 2021.​​​​​​​

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.

Stimulus Payments

A new website, GetMyPaymentIL.org, can give you step-by-step information on how to access your stimulus check. It can’t help you get your money faster, but it will give you free information about your eligibility and how to find tax help and banking options. It will never ask you for your personal information and you should always avoid websites that do, but keep this website in mind if you need more help.

CONSUMER

Utilities

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has extended its moratorium on utility shut-offs until 9/1/2020. ICC has agreed to reconnect people without fee for all financially strapped utility customers disconnected in the last year for nonpayment until 2/1/2021. Utilities are required to offer extended consumer-friendly payment plans that help customers pay off utility debt with no down payment until 2/1/2021.

Federal Student Loans

All payments due on federal loans are suspended until September 30, 2020.
No interest will accrue on federal student loans from April through September 30, 2020. Interest rates on federal student loans have been reduced to 0% during this period.

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. Through April 20, 2021, the three major credit bureaus Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are offering free weekly credit reports via 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.

Scams

BEWARE of COVID-19/Coronavirus Scams!
-Scam and hoax text messages, campaigns and scam robocalls offering free home testing kits, promoting bogus cures, selling health insurance.
-A text message scam may falsely advertise a cure or an offer to be tested for coronavirus. THERE IS NO CURE OR AT-HOME TEST. DO NOT click on links texts related to the virus, and only use the CDC website for the most current information.
-No one will call or text you to verify your personal information or bank account details in order to obtain federal CARES stimulus cash payments.
-If you have been scammed or have a complaint, contact the FTC, the Illinois Attorney General, & Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

COURTS-CIVIL CASES

Cook County Circuit courts are now hearing cases via Zoom and phone conference.  Jury trials are not being held.  Paperwork may be e-filed online or in person.  Anyone entering a courthouse must wear a face covering and undergo a health screening.  Contact CARPLS Legal Aid Hotline to learn how this General Order affects your case and court dates.

COURTS-CRIMINAL CASES

Cook County Criminal Courts

Effective July 6, 2020, more Cook county court proceedings will resume but most will be held remotely via video conferencing. 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

EDUCATION

Some Illinois school districts have announced that they will have remote learning this fall.  The Chicago Public School district has not yet announced whether in-person learning will resume this fall.

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. For free meals during the summer, families can find sites by calling (800) 359-2163,  texting “FoodIL” to 877-877 or visiting summermealsillinois.org. Information about free and low-cost internet access is available  at https://www.digitalinclusion.org/free-low-cost-internet-plans/.

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”) is a new law providing for 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 includes the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. Employers with fewer than 500 employees and government employers must provide 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

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.

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

-Recipients can receive an additional 13 weeks of benefits (26 weeks is the usual time period).
-Recipients get an additional flat $600 per week until July 31, 2020.
-For the first time in Illinois, contract, gig and self-employed workers are eligible for benefits.
-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).

As of March 27, 2020, due to very high volume of new applications, a system has been established for online filing.
-If your last name begins with letters A-M you can file your claim on Sundays, Tuesdays or Thursdays.
-If your last name begins with letters N-Z you can file your claim on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
-Saturdays will be available for anyone who couldn’t file on their allotted days.

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
-If your last name begins with letters A-M you can call on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.
-If your last name begins with N-Z you can call on Mondays and Wednesdays between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.
-Fridays will be available for anyone.

As of 7/9/2020, the IDES is now calling back those who call the IDES for any reason 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.  IDES will 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.

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.

EVICTION

Per the Governor’s most recent order, no new eviction cases may be filed through 8/22/20. The only exceptions are if a tenant poses a direct threat to the health and safety of other tenants, or there’s an immediate and severe risk to property, or a violation of any applicable building code, health ordinance, or similar regulation.

If you have a Housing Choice Voucher or live in public or project-based housing or your landlord has a federally-backed mortgage, the landlord must issue a 30-day notice for non-payment of rent. Late fees are paused for 120 days, until July 25, 2020 by the CARES Act. After that, 30 days’ notice from the landlord is required. Make sure to ask for an interim recertification right away if you have lost income! If you have questions about your Housing Choice, public or project-based housing, call CARPLS Legal Aid Hotline.

Pursuant to a new Chicago ordinance, Chicago renters who receive a 5-day notice for non-payment of rent have the right to tell their landlords that they have been affected financially by COVID-19. If a renter does that, the landlord has to wait an additional 7 days before filing an eviction case. During those 7 days, the landlord must try to negotiate a settlement with the renter. This rule will be in effect until October 2020.

Under another new city 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. Th 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.

Rental assistance funds are now available through the City of Chicago to income-qualified renters, but you must act fast. Eligible recipients can receive up to 6 months of rental assistance, between $2,000 and $3,000. To apply, go to  chi.gov/housinghelp by August 10, or apply in person at your nearest Community service Center: https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/fss/provdrs/serv/svcs/community_servicecenterlocations.html. The city will distribute the funds through a lottery system. Funds will be available through August and September. 

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 that were set to expire beginning June 1, 2020 through July 3, 2020 have been extended, rescheduled and continued until July 6, 2020 through August 7, 2020.

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

Health and Family Services (HFS) Child Support Call Centers are temporarily closed. Individuals can access their cases via the Illinois Healthcare and Family Services (IHFS) website:
https://www.illinois.gov/hfs/ChildSupport/Pages/covid19updates.aspx

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

Body Attachment Orders are now being enforced.

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

FOOD STAMPS (SNAP)

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.

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.

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 can now buy groceries online from participating retailers.

HOMEOWNERSHIP

Mortgage assistance

The CARES Act right to request forbearance on federally-backed mortgages expired July 25. You can still ask your lender for forbearance, but there is no guarantee that the lender will agree.

For financial assistance with any type of mortgage, 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.

Mortgage assistance funds are now available through the City of Chicago to income-qualified homeowners. The homeowner must live in the property and must have been current in mortgage payments through March 2020. The city will distribute the funds through a lottery system. Funds will be available through August and September. To apply for the mortgage assistance funds, go to  chi.gov/housinghelp beginning August 3, or apply in person at your nearest Community service Center: https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/fss/provdrs/serv/svcs/community_servicecenterlocations.html

IMMIGRATION

Beginning June 4, 2020, certain USCIS field offices and asylum offices began re-opening 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.

SMALL BUSINESS

Financial Assistance through the Federal Government

In addition to traditional Small Business Association funding programs, the CARES Act established several new temporary programs to address the COVID-19 outbreak.  The SBA is still accepting new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)-COVID-19 related assistance programs (including EIDL Advances) based on available federal appropriations funding. EIDL and Paycheck applicants who have already submitted their applications will continue to be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. The Paycheck Protection Program is anticipated to remain open to applicants through August 8th.

Financial Assistance through the State of Illinois

The Illinois Small Business Emergency Loan Fund is a $60 million fund supporting low-interest loans of up to $50,000 for small businesses in every industry.  Businesses with fewer than 50 employees and less than $3 million in revenue in 2019 will be eligible to apply. Successful applicants will owe nothing for six months and will then begin making fixed payments at 3% interest for the remainder of a five-year loan term.

Gov. Pritzker has announced that the state is deferring sales tax payments for more than 24,000 small- and medium-sized bars and restaurants, and the administration has ensured small businesses from every county are eligible to apply for low-interest coronavirus disaster assistance loans of up to $2 million from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

TAXES

Under the CARES 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. The waiver applies to distributions taken between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020. Up to $100,000 of distributions can avoid the penalty.

TRAFFIC/VEHICLES

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

Secretary of state facilities will reopen on June 1 and 2 but will only serve customers with expired driver’s license, id card; vehicle transactions and new drivers until July 31, 2020. People are encouraged to conduct SOS transactions online. https://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/news/2020/april/200410d1.pdf

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

Effective July 25, 2020, Illinois Toll is providing motorists with toll violation relief. Outstanding and unpaid toll fines are reduced to $3.

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.