The Cook County Sheriff’s Office has been ordered to enforce less than half as many evictions in recent months, compared to the same period in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic. County officials point to the decline as a reflection of the effectiveness of County legal aid efforts and rental assistance on behalf of both landlords and tenants.
“At the height of the pandemic, experts and our partners in housing expected the worst – a tsunami of evictions affecting our most vulnerable residents,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “The County understood that we needed to work together to take action. In the face of an impending crisis, Cook County and community partners stood up programs and pilots focused on getting legal aid, case management and financial assistance to our residents in greatest need.”
From October 2019 through March 2020, prior to the pandemic-related eviction moratorium which began on March 20, 2020, nearly 25 percent of eviction filings ended in an eviction enforced by the Sheriff’s office, meaning the Sheriff’s office dispatched deputies to enforce the judge’s order. In contrast, between October 2021 and the end of March 2022, after the expiration of the moratorium, less than 10 percent of eviction filings have resulted in the court ordering the Sheriff to enforce an eviction.
“The relief efforts made by the County and the federal government are making a promising impact,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said. “For many years, my evictions model has worked to assist individuals with vital social services and connections to resources to lessen the trauma of court-ordered evictions, but President Preckwinkle’s work to significantly reduce the number of evictions has been critical in disrupting the pain that eviction brings to too many residents of Cook County.”
In terms of eviction filings, from October 2019 through March 2020 there were 13,250 eviction cases initiated in the court with a total of 3,301 enforced. As noted above, eviction filings stopped being accepted and enforced by the courts on March 20, 2020 due to the eviction moratorium. In contrast, from October 2021 through March 2022, there were 12,358 eviction cases initiated in the court with a total of 1,181 enforced. This data includes both residential and commercial evictions initiated in Cook County.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared a moratorium on evictions beginning in March 2020 as part of the state’s stay-at-home order designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The ban ended on October 3, 2021, and experts and advocates feared that a tidal wave of evictions would follow. Nationally, the Aspen Institute estimated that nearly 15 million Americans were at risk of eviction in mid-2021 including tens of thousands of Cook County residents.
In response to the expected influx of eviction filings, County Officials launched a suite of programs in late 2020 and throughout 2021 aimed at addressing community housing needs. A critical piece of the strategy included Cook County Legal Aid for
Housing and Debt (CCLAHD), a county-wide initiative formed to help residents resolve eviction, foreclosure, consumer debt and tax deed issues.
"I am happy to see that efforts by legal services providers and volunteers, plus rental assistance, are helping to prevent evictions in Cook County and keeping people in their homes during these challenging times," said Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans. "The Circuit Court of Cook County supports CCLAHD, which exists to help both landlords and residents reach a resolution that’s fair for everyone involved."
Launched in November 2020 in collaboration with the Cook County Board of Commissioners, the Office of the President, the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, The Chicago Bar Foundation, and other community partners, CCLAHD provides free legal aid, case management, and mediation services for tenants and landlords dealing with evictions, property owners who are behind on their mortgage payments or property taxes, and creditors or debtors with issues related to consumer debt. CCLAHD has served over 15,000 Cook County residents to date and connected many thousands more to critical resources like rental assistance.
"Our goal was to keep residents in their homes during the pandemic that forced many to lose work," said Commissioner Scott Britton. "CCLAHD met landlords and tenants at the crossroad of eviction and provided a pathway to keep families housed. We don't often have such stark numbers to prove the disproportionate success of critical safety net programs, but we do here -despite the number of evictions filed during the pandemic, there were fewer residents displaced than before the pandemic began."
The County’s emergency rental assistance program ranked among the most efficient in the nation, and quickly delivered much-needed relief to tenants and landlords alike. Administered by the Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC) and the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development, the initial round of rental assistance, launched in March 2021, distributed $65.5 million of CARES Act funding in rent and utility bill relief. A second round, launched in October 2021 with funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), delivered an additional $66 million, this time including up to 3 months of future rent as well as compensation for related housing expenses. In total, over $130 million in rental assistance has been distributed by the County and hundreds of millions more has been administered by the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago to assist Cook County renters and landlords in need.
“From the beginning of the pandemic our number one priority has been to prevent evictions,” said Rich Monocchio, HACC’s Executive Director. “We ensured that families who had already received an eviction notice were the first to receive aid, as well as our lowest-income households. Timely rental assistance has been a key component of the County’s mission to prevent evictions during this crisis.”
County officials have committed to continued support for CCLAHD beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. A combination of federal, county and philanthropic funds will provide ongoing financial support. Additional rental assistance resources are expected to be made available for Cook County residents in the coming months as well.
To learn more about CCLAHD programs, please visit www.cookcountylegalaid.org or call 855-956-5763. To learn more about future rental and mortgage assistance opportunities, please visit www.chicookilrenthelp.org.