COVID-19 Legal Resources

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 February 3, 2022 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)
  • Health (DH)
  • Streets and Sanitation (DS)

https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/ah.html

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

Customers who receive disconnection notices should call the utility company because they may be eligible for deferred payment arrangements.  ComEd, Peoples Gas, Nicor and other major utilities are offering bill payment assistance programs and extended deferred payment arrangements (DPA) to eligible low-income residents.  

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.  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. 

The Low-Income Household Water Assistance Payment (LIWHAP) is for households that are facing the threat of disconnection, have already been disconnected or have past due balances over $250 for their water and wastewater services combined. Customers may apply one time for water and one time for wastewater for the duration of the program, December 1, 2021, through August 31, 2023. For more information or to apply, call the LIWHAP hotline at 1-833-711-0374.  

Affordable Connectivity Program

The Affordable Connectivity Program is an FCC benefit program that helps ensure that households can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more.

The benefit provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.

The Affordable Connectivity Program is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.  

There are two steps to apply:  

1. Go to https://acpbenefit.org/ to submit an application or print out a mail-in application.

2. Contact your preferred participating provider to select a plan and have the discount applied to your bill.  Some providers may have an alternative application that they will ask you to complete.

Eligible households must both apply for the program and contact a participating provider to select a service plan.

Federal Student Loans

Payments are currently suspended, without interest, for most federal student loan borrowers until sometime in 2023. This policy does not apply to private student loans.  Unless the president orders forbearance to be extended once more, the repayment clock starts again 60 days after the department is allowed to implement the program or ongoing litigation is resolved, or 60 days after June 30, 2023 — whichever comes first.  Borrowers can still make payments to lower their debt during this period of suspended payments.

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 the end of 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.

Student Loan Debt

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021includes 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.

http://www.cookcountycourt.org/MEDIA/View-Press-Release/ArticleId/2831/Cook-County-Circuit-Court-to-resume-jury-trials-this-spring-with-multiple-precautions-against-coronavirus-spread

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.

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 or Interim Orders of Protection that were set to expire on December 13, 2021 through Thursday, December 30, 2021 are extended and now have return dates between January 3, 2022 through January 20, 2022.

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: HFS.ChildSupportHelp@illinois.gov or hfs.webmaster@illinois.gov

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.

During this time of reduced in person court operations, all body attachments issued in a Cook County Domestic Relations proceeding for nonpayment of support and maintenance only are hereby stayed from December 13, 2021 until January 3, 2022.No body attachment issued as a result of non-payment of support or maintenance shall be executed until January 3, 2022.

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

Emergency food stamps are available to qualifying applicants. You can apply online at www.abe.illinois.gov. Maximum benefit amounts, as well as maximum monthly income allowable, may be found here: https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=33412

Since April 2020, all Illinois SNAP households received both regular monthly benefits and an emergency SNAP allotment. February 2023 will be the last month for SNAP households to receive the emergency allotment. Effective March 1, 2023, SNAP benefits will return to pre-pandemic levels. Visit www.abe.illinois.gov to update your address or to report an increase in housing costs or decrease in income.

Emergency food stamps are still available to qualifying applicants. You can apply online at www.abe.illinois.gov. Maximum benefit amounts, as well as maximum monthly income allowable, may be found here: https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=33412.

Chicago Resilient Communities Pilot Program

The Chicago Resiliency Fund 2.0 is offering one-time, $500 relief payments to domestic workers and undocumented residents who have not previously received COVID relief funds. Income limits apply. To apply, go to https://chicagoerdw.aidkit.org/apply/mwrlv?lang=en.

Cook County Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot

Applications for the Cook County Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot Program are now closed. All selected participants will receive their first payments by the end of January 2023. Most participants will receive their first payments in December 2022. 

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: 

https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/1628.

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). Open enrollment ended January 15, 2023. 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

The Illinois Homeowner Assistance Fund (ILHAF) will be accepting applications from November 1, 2022, until funds are exhausted. The program will provide up to $60,000 in mortgage assistance to homeowners affected by the pandemic. 

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/.

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

Cook County residents looking for answers to legal questions concerning their home, chain of title, or other land records can now receive free legal assistance through a new Help Desk service that will be open to the public each month.   

Appointments can be made online by emailing: recording.helpdesk@cookcountyil.gov OR by calling 312-603-5050 

Services include:

  • Deed Counseling 
  • Grantor/Grantee Affidavit 
  • Corrective Recording Affidavit 
  • Disclaimer of Interest Form 
  • Surviving Tenant Affidavit 
  • Transfer on Death Instrument (TODI) 
  • Indexing Correction Request Form 

The Help Desk is currently available on the third Thursday of the month at the Clerk’s Office downtown location at 118 N. Clark Street in Chicago.  

If you know or suspect that you have delinquent taxes or that your taxes have been sold, please call the Clerk’s office at (312) 603-5645 to verify the status.

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).

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.

Applications for the Illinois Rental Payment Program closed on January 9. To check the status of an application, go to https://ilrpp2.ihda.org/#/auth/login.

If you are a person living with HIV, specific resources are available for you by calling the HIV Resource Coordination Hub at 1-844-HUB-4040.

SMALL BUSINESS

Cook County Community Recovery Initiative

The Bureau of Economic Development is strengthening residents and small businesses affected by COVID-19 through rapid financial relief and essential support with the Cook County Community Recovery Initiative.  Learn more about how we can help you stay in your home, find a job or keep your business open. If your business has been impacted by the pandemic and needs support, visit www.cookcountyil.gov/recovery to learn more about the available programs.

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.  

To Learn More: First Stop Business Information Center, 800.252.2923; Email: ceo.firststop@illinois.gov

Financial Assistance through the Federal Government

– COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance programs, funded through the Small Business Administration, provides funding to help small businesses recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    – As of January 1, 2022, the SBA is no longer accepting applications for new COVID EIDL loans or advances, but the SBA continues to accept requests for increases, reconsideration, and appeals.

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:

  • SBA Community Advantage Loan Program A community-based, mission-focused lender meets 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.

Additional debt relief assistance 

The Economic Aid Act also authorized additional debt relief payment to 7(a), 504, and Microloan borrowers beyond the six-month period prescribed in the CARES Act. The level of assistance varied based on when the loan was approved and will begin on or after February 1, 2021. Please contact your lender for questions on the availability of this assistance for your SBA loan.

TAXES

ILLINOIS TAX RELIEF

Beginning July 1st, Illinois’ grocery tax will be suspended. This suspension is part of the $46.5 billion state budget plan that was passed earlier this year and is aimed at providing relief to families struggling with rising costs of goods and inflation. According to lawmakers, the state’s 1% sales tax on groceries will be suspended for the entirety of the new fiscal year, which officials say will save taxpayers up to $400 million through July 1, 2023.

   –  The tax suspension will include “food for human consumption that is to be consumed off the premises where it is sold.” However, this does NOT apply to: alcoholic beverages, food with adult-use cannabis, soft drinks, candy and food that has been prepared for immediate consumption. Additionally, drugs and medicine will not be included.

Between July 1, 2022, and December 31, 2022, the State Motor Fuel tax rate remained at $0.392 per gallon of gasoline and $0.467 per gallon of diesel fuel.    Effective January 1, 2023, through June 30, 2023, the State Motor Fuel Tax INCREASE to $0.423 per gallon for gasoline and $0.498 per gallon for diesel fuel. The tax will resume its previous annual CPI increase on July 1, 2023.

TAX FILING FOR 2022

On January 12, 2023, the Internal Revenue Service today announced Monday, January 23, 2023, as the beginning of the nation’s 2023 tax season when the agency will begin accepting and processing 2022 tax year returns.

With the three previous tax seasons dramatically impacted by the pandemic, the IRS has taken additional steps for 2023 to improve service for taxpayers. As part of the August passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the IRS has hired more than 5,000 new telephone assistors and added more in-person staff to help support taxpayers.

The IRS urges people to have all the information they need before they file a tax return. Filing a complete and accurate tax return can avoid extensive processing and refund delays as well as avoid the possibility of needing to file an amended tax return.

In addition, the IRS encourages people to carefully review their tax situation to make sure they don’t overlook important tax credits they may be eligible for, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The IRS has set a special day on January 27 to encourage people to make sure they understand the important benefits of the EITC, a credit that can help low- and moderate-income workers and families.

The IRS anticipates most taxpayers will receive their refund within 21 days of when they file electronically, if they choose direct deposit and there are no issues with their tax return. Taxpayers should check Where’s My Refund? on IRS.gov for their personalized refund status.

The IRS has a variety of free services available to help people. The IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (https://www.irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-qualifying-taxpayers) programs also offer free basic tax return preparation to qualified individuals. People can also get help from trusted tax professionals (https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc254), commercially available tax software as well as IRS Free File, which provides free electronic filing of tax returns.

April 18 tax filing deadline in 2023

The filing deadline to submit 2022 tax returns or an extension to file and pay tax owed is Tuesday, April 18, 2023, for most taxpayers. By law, Washington, D.C., holidays impact tax deadlines for everyone in the same way as federal holidays. The due date is April 18, instead of April 15, because of the weekend and the District of Columbia’s Emancipation Day holiday, which falls on Monday, April 17.

Taxpayers requesting an extension will have until Monday, October 16, 2023, to file.

Ladder Up

Ladder Up offers free Federal and State Income Tax Return preparation. To be eligible, families may earn no more than $60,000 per year, and individuals may earn no more than $32,000 per year. Qualified individuals must be full-time residents of Illinois. Taxpayers filing a joint return must both be present. Masks are required. For more information and list of tax preparation sites, go to https://www.goladderup.org/our-services/tax-assistance/.

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 has extended expired Driver’s License, State ID and Restricted Driving Permits to 12/1/22.

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

SOS has extended expired Driver’s License, State ID and Restricted Driving Permits to 12/1/22.

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.

https://www.illinoistollway.com/media-center/inside-the-tollway?urlTitle=cashless-tolling-what-customers-need-to-knowentryId1073149entryId

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.