COVID-19 Legal Resources

/COVID-19
COVID-192021-04-08T09:48:10-05:00

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 April 8, 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)

You must review your Court order to determine if the Administrative Law Judge has ordered you to appear on the next Court date. If you are ordered to appear, follow any instructions in that Court order.

The department is holding in-person hearings on limited cases. If your docket number has one of these alpha designations AND is scheduled for a hearing at 400 W. Superior, you must go to your hearing: DS, PT, WG, TX, WD, DH, DE, or DT.

If you have a Motion to Set Aside (MTSA) scheduled on a Friday in room 105 or 111 at 400 W. Superior, you must attend to your hearing, whatever case type you have.

If you have a Vacant Building or Watchman violation (CP) (13-12-125 and 13-12-140) that is scheduled to be heard in room 105 at 400 W. Superior, the hearing will be held on the 1st Friday of the month.

If you have a Fleeing and Eluding case (FE) that is scheduled to be heard in room 111 at 400 W. Superior, the hearing will be held on the 3rd Wednesday of the month, as scheduled.

In-person Vehicle Impoundment (VP) full hearings have resumed. If your docket number has a VP and is scheduled to be heard in rooms 110, 114, or 116 at 400 W. Superior, it will be heard as scheduled.

In-person Motions to Set Aside (MTSA) for the ‘VP’ docket have resumed. If your docket number has a VP and is scheduled to be heard at 400 W. Superior, it will be heard Tuesdays and Fridays in room 108.

Motions to Set Aside for Building cases (If you case has BT, BN, or BS in the docket number)that are scheduled in room 112, 115, or 116 at 400 W. Superior, will be heard in person. ALL OTHER building matters will be continued by order of court.

For Building Code Violations: If you have finished work to correct all of the violations listed in your Administrative Notice of Violation (ANOV), you can submit proof of full compliance to gro.o1618381033gacih1618381033cfoyt1618381033ic@sg1618381033nirae1618381033hevit1618381033artsi1618381033nimda1618381033bod1618381033.

If your violation (CP, CS, RV) is scheduled in room 106 or 107 at 400 W. Superior, you will have to appear in person as stated on your Administrative Notice of Violation (ANOV). If you have an ANOV, you might be able to avoid having to appear in person on your court date, if you contact the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection at least 3 days before your hearing date. Information is found on the department’s website (4).

For parking ticket matters: The hearing locations at 4445 N. Pulaski and 2006 E. 95th Street are open for Boot hearings and Motions to Set Aside a Default. Hours: M-F 8:00-4:00. The Central Hearing facility at 400 W. Superior is only accepting Boot and Motions hearing requests.

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: https://www.chicago.gov/content/dam/city/depts/ah/general/MTSA.pdf. File by email to: gro.o1618381033gacih1618381033cfoyt1618381033ic@AS1618381033TM-HA1618381033 or fax: 312/742-8222. Include your phone number on the motion.

You are responsible for keeping track of your case. Make sure to check the website for updates: https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/ah.html

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

Utilities

Starting April 1, 2021, many utility companies in Illinois are expected to begin sending disconnection notices to customers who were previously protected by a pandemic-related moratorium on shutoffs. But the companies—including Peoples Gas, ComEd, Nicor Gas, Aqua Illinois, Illinois-American Water Company, and Utility Services of Illinois—have agreed to allow some customers to defer payments to avoid disconnection. And for those whose services are disconnected, reconnection protocols will be relaxed. The new rules, announced in an order from the Illinois Commerce Commission, extend through June 30, 2021. The agreement does not include municipal and cooperative utility systems, which are not regulated by the ICC.

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. (At Nicor Gas, arrangements will extend over 24 months, and all residential customers will be eligible.) Enrollment will exempt customers from disconnection through June 30, 2021, provided they call their utility. A call to the utility is critical for customers who are facing disconnection or have an arrearage.

For low-income customers who are disconnected through June 30, 2021, the companies will waive reconnection fees. And on or before July 10, 2021, customers with household incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level will be 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.

LIHEAP processing is taking a long time; customers can call their utility, and also apply for LIHEAP during the same time period. 

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

Federal Student Loans

All payments due on federal loans are suspended until at least 9/30/2021.  No interest will accrue on federal student loans owned by the US Dept. of Education from 3/13/2020 until further notice. 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 September 30, 2021.
 
 
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 Tax Day 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.

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

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

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.

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.

EVICTION

There is a stop in effect for all Cook County evictions. The Sheriff is carrying out emergency evictions only. While certain evictions may still be filed, the sheriff’s office will not be carrying out any eviction orders until further notice.
 
The Cook County Emergency Rental Assistance program will begin accepting applications on March 11. The program pays up to 12 months of missed rent and utilities and up to 3 months of future rent payments. To be eligible applicants must:

 

  • Live in suburban Cook County and rent their home (landlords may apply on behalf of eligible tenants)
  • Lack access to other support (e.g., don’t live in public housing or receive rental assistance from other programs during the same time period)
  • Have proof of financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Have a household annual income at or below certain requirements.
Applications will be available at https://www.cookcountyil.gov/recovery and will close on April 9.
 
The State of Illinois will also be receiving rental assistance funds under the second stimulus package signed into law on December 27, 2020. Details on who will be eligible for receive the funds, and how to access them once they do become available, are still forthcoming. Those details will be posted here soon, so continue checking this space for more information.
 
On 12/11/20, the Governor issued an order that prohibits the filing of eviction for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, unless that person poses a direct threat to the health and safety of other tenants or an immediate and severe risk to property. But, even if the reason is nonpayment of rent, the order also prohibits the filing of an eviction against a “Covered Person.” A “Covered Person” is any tenant of a residential property who provides to his/her landlord a Declaration under penalty of perjury indicating that:
  • The individual either: 1) expects to earn no more than $99K in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198K if filing a joint return); 2) was not required to report any income in 2019 to the IRS; or 3) receives a CARES Act cash benefit;
  • The individual is unable to make a full rent payment due to a COVID-19-related hardship, including, but not limited to, substantial loss of income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, or an increase in out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the COVID-19 Pandemic;
  • The individual is using best efforts to make timely payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit; AND
  • Eviction would likely render the individual homeless – or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting – because the individual has no other available housing options.

The Declaration form is available on the website of the Illinois Housing Development Authority, https://www.ihda.org/about-ihda/covid-19-housing-resources-information. Landlords are required to provide tenants with a copy of the Declaration form at least 5 days before issuing a 5-day notice. If the reason is other than nonpayment of rent, the tenant is not required to give the landlord a signed Declaration. In addition, no evictions may be carried out at time, unless the tenant poses a direct threat to the health and safety of other tenants or an immediate and severe risk to property. The Governor’s order was set to expire 4/3/21, but on 4/2/21, it was extended to 5/1/21

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the VA have extended their eviction moratoria to 12/31/20, for homeowners with FHA- or VA-insured single-family mortgages. The moratorium does not include evictions from legally vacant or abandoned properties. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have also extended their eviction moratoria through 12/31/20, but this only applies to tenants living in foreclosed properties, where the mortgage is now held by Fannie Mae of Freddie Mac. It does not apply to tenants in homes that have not been foreclosed on.

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.

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.

The federal moratorium on evictions was set to expire 3/31/21, but it has been extended through 6/30/21. This program is supposed to apply to tenants who: 1) cannot pay their rent due to COVID-19; 2) would become homeless or doubled up if evicted; and 3) have an income of less than $99,000 per year, did not have to pay income tax in 2019 or got a stimulus check. In order to apply, tenants will have to fill out the affidavit attached here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2020-19654.pdf This is not rent forgiveness and rent remains due. People living in properties that either Fannie or Freddie has taken over because the owner couldn’t pay the mortgage are also protected — the moratorium on evictions has been extended as well.

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.s1618381033ionil1618381033li@pl1618381033eHtro1618381033ppuSd1618381033lihC.1618381033SFH1618381033 or vog.s1618381033ionil1618381033li@re1618381033tsamb1618381033ew.sf1618381033h1618381033

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

FOOD STAMPS (SNAP)

Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT), a new benefit to households in which children who are receiving free or reduced-fee meals at school, is now available to Illinois residents. There are no immigration status restrictions. Children are eligible for each day that they did not have access to in-school meals. There is no need to apply if a household is already enrolled in free or reduced-price school meals. The benefit will be equal to the worth of the free or reduced-fee meals, $6.82 per day for each day, and will continue through the 2020-2021 school year. P-EBT benefits will continue to be available through the end of the health emergency.
 
Maximum SNAP allotments will temporarily increase 15% beginning 01/01/2021, through 09/30/2021.
 
SNAP recipients do not need to meet work and training requirements at this time.
 
A 5.3% cost of living increase to the maximum benefit amounts for SNAP took effect 10/1/20.
 
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved emergency food stamp allotments for March. 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 for April 2021.

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.

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 now enroll in an Affordable Care Act (ACA) Health Insurance Marketplace plan. The Special Enrollment Period (SEP) in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic runs through August 15, 2021.
 
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. 
 
The American Rescue Plan will also pay for 100 percent of the cost of premiums for COBRA continuation coverage for workers who are laid off or have reduced hours. The subsidy will begin on April 1, 2021 and extend through September 30, 2021.

HOMEOWNERSHIP

Mortgage assistance

Mortgage and utility assistance is coming soon. Continue checking this space for details.
 
Single-family homeowners with loans backed by HUD (Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac), USDA or VA are now protected from foreclosure through 6/30/21
 
HUD, USDA and VA have extended the enrollment window for borrowers who want to request forbearance to 6/30/21. They will also provide up to 6 additional months of forbearance for borrowers who entered forbearance on or before 6/30/20.
 
Homeowners who do not have federally backed mortgages can still ask their loan servicers for forbearance, but there is no guarantee that the loan servicer will agree. And, even loans in forbearance have to get paid eventually.

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.

Property Taxes

If a property qualified for a property tax exemption in 2019, the property owner may not need to fill out an application for 2020. Exemptions that qualify for this application waiver are:

  • Homestead exemption for a person with a disability,
  • Homestead exemption for a veteran with a disability, and
  • Senior citizen assessment freeze homestead exemption.

Additionally, taxpayers now have 13 months, instead of 9 months, to pay delinquent Cook County property taxes before their properties are offered to investors on a tax sale, and the annual tax sale has been postponed.

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.

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:
  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides loan forgiveness for retaining employees by temporarily expanding the traditional loan program.  SBA is offering first draw PPP loans for first time program participants.  It is also providing second draw PPP loans beginning January 13, 2021 for certain businesses who have previously received a PPP loan.
  • COVID-19 Economic Injury Loans (EIDL) provides economic relief to small businesses and non-profits that are experiencing a temporary loss of revenue.
  • Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVO) program includes $15 billion in grants to shuttered venues, to be administered by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Disaster Assistance. 
  • SBA Express Bridge Loan enables small businesses who have a relationship with a SBA lender to access up to $25,000 quickly. 
  • SBA Debt Relief program will pay 6 months of principal, interest, and any fees for certain loans disbursed prior to September 27, 20202.    This relief is not available for PPP or EIDL loans. 

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.  
  • 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 to assist Illinois small businesses and non-profits negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • SBA Assistance for Illinois Small Businesses to access the federal programs.    

Important Application Updates: Applications for a second round of funding are now live. A total of $220 million will be made available for small businesses of all types in Illinois. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, with funding priorities outlined below. Please take care to submit a complete and correct application. Additional time needed to submit will not impact your eligibility or chances of receiving a grant.

https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/SmallBizAssistance/Pages/C19DisadvantagedBusGrants.aspx

The American Rescue Plan Act will infuse another $7.25 billion into the PPP, but the Act does not extend the application period, which is scheduled to close March 31. The Act makes more not-for-profits eligible for the PPP by creating a new category called “additional covered nonprofit entity,” which are certain not-for-profits listed in Sec. 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code but places limits on how much these organizations can receive from and participate in lobbying activities and limits the number of employees the entity can have to 300. Larger not-for-profits are also eligible for PPP in some cases.

The Act also provides for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), which provide funds to businesses in low-income communities that have no more than 300 employees and have suffered economic loss of more than 30% as determined by the amount that the entity’s gross receipts declined during an eight-week period, between March 2, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021, relative to a comparable eight-week period immediately preceding March 2, 2020. Advances from EIDL will not be included in the gross income of the person who receives the grant.

The Act also provides relief for restaurants, bars and other eligible providers of food and drink, allowing for grants equal to the pandemic-related loss of the eligible entity, up to $10 million per entity, or $5 million per physical location. The grants are calculated by subtracting 2020 revenue from 2020 revenue. Entities are limited to 20 locations.

TAXES

The deadline for filing 2020 federal and Illinois taxes has been extended to May 17, 2021. 

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.

Ladder Up is offering free clinics to low to moderate income individuals (individuals earning under $30k and families earning less than $57k) through virtual tax clinics.  Individuals can make an appointment for the drop off of tax documents, the returns will be completed virtually by volunteers and then returned to the either by e-mail or through a pick-up appointment if you do not have e-mail.  More information is available at: https://www.goladderup.org/our-services/tax-%20assistance/ or by calling (312) 588-6900.  The service is available from February 12-April 15.  

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 Plan Act of 2021 makes significant changes to the child tax credit for 2021, which will now be $3,600/child for children under six years old and $3,000/child for children age six and older. The credit was previously $2,000/child. The expanded child tax credit is available to individuals with incomes up to $75,000 and couples with incomes up to $150,000.  The childcare tax credit will also be expanded this year under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This credit offsets the cost of childcare for children ages 12 and younger; its value is set at 50 percent of a family’s eligible expenses. The maximum value for the credits is temporarily expanded to $4,000 for one child or $8,000 for two or more children. The maximum was previously set at $2,100 per family. These credits will be fully refundable, meaning families will receive the full credit regardless of whether they earn too little to owe income tax. It is possible families will be able to receive their credits as monthly payments rather than as a yearly lump sum, but the Treasury Department has not announced whether that will be deemed feasible. This expansion is effective through the end of 2021. 
 
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. 

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

Due to the impact of COVID-19, all in-person transactions are closed at SOS facilities from 11/17/20 to 12/7/20. With some exceptions, expired driver’s license and state ID cards are extended to 6/1/21. SOS will send a letter to eligible drivers for online renewal. https://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/news/2020/november/201113d3.pdf

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

Expiration dates for driver’s licenses and ID cards have been extended an additional three months–from Nov. 1, 2020, until Feb.1,2021. This new Feb. 1 extension also includes those who have October, November, December and January expiration dates. As a result, expired driver’s licenses and ID cards will remain valid until Feb. 1, 2021

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
 
Earlier this year, the Illinois Tollway suspended cash tolls due to Covid. On 2/25/21, it announced that it will now only accept I-Pass, E-Z Pass and online payments. To avoid a $3 fine, a driver has 14 days to pay a missed toll. A person may pay by check or money order if he’s unable to pay online.
 

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.