Project NOW has partnered with the 14th Judicial Circuit in Rock Island County, the Rock Island County Bar Association, Prairie State Legal Services, Inc., and the Salvation Army to develop an Eviction Diversion Program (EDP). The goal of the program is to cope with the onslaught of evictions since the Governor’s moratorium on evictions was lifted in early October.
According to the 14th Circuit Court Judge Carol Pentuic, who has been spearheading this new program, the goal is to keep tenants housed while ensuring that small business owners are reimbursed back rent. She is also concerned the courts could not handle the influx of cases, so this program is a win-win for everyone, according to a Monday release from Project NOW.
Under a local court rule, any landlord who files an eviction order will be notified of this new program and be required to do mediation before the matter is set for trial.
Project NOW will host an informational meeting on the issue for tenants this Wednesday, Nov. 3rd at Project NOW (418-19th Street, Rock Island) at 5:30 p.m. Tenants will hear from the 14th Circuit Court Judge, Carol Pentuic, attorney Jennifer Kincaid with the Rock Island County Bar Association, and the executive director of Project NOW, Dwight Ford. Also available for questions are representatives from Project NOW and the Salvation Army, which will provide the funding for the back rent.
Pentuic says the hope is that cases can be resolved through alternate dispute resolution. Ideally, landlords and tenants would contact Project NOW and the Salvation Army to receive rental assistance before the need for an eviction. However, if the parties have not done so, this program will provide the opportunity for the parties to access resources.
In addition, many tenants will be eligible for free legal representation from Prairie State Legal Services should the matter not be resolved through mediation and has to go to trial. The mediators have received training and will be providing their services free of charge.
The program is partnering with volunteer attorneys. John Deere is generously providing volunteer mediators through Deere’s involvement with the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI), according to Project NOW.
At the time of the parties’ first court appearance, they will be referred to the program and will need to complete mediation within 14 days. That process will be done remotely, but the courts will provide computers to facilitate the mediation at the courthouse and the arbitration center for people who do not have internet access.
Cases will be set for status within 14 days to verify compliance. Sanctions will be imposed for failure to participate. Cases that are not resolved through mediation will be set for trial when trial time becomes available. People are strongly encouraged to contact Project NOW and the Salvation Army before the eviction process is initiated.
Funds available for rent and utility assistance
Project NOW executive director Dwight Ford says funds are currently available for rental and utility assistance.
“If rent can be caught up prior to the eviction being filed, everyone benefits. We hope this program keeps people housed and relieves the strain on small business owners,” he said Monday, noting Cook County is the only other county in the state implementing this type of program designed to keep people in their homes while also paying landlords.
The rule as well as an eviction toolkit and an explanation of the program can be found on the Rock Island County Court Administrator’s website HERE.
The Rock Island County Eviction Diversion Program (EDP) provides tenants and landlords with the opportunity to resolve eviction cases without the need for a trial before the Judge. All eviction cases at this time have access to mediation services provided by volunteer court-certified mediators and an eligibility assessment for emergency services and financial assistance with Project NOW and the Salvation Army. Tenants that are income-eligible may also have the opportunity to seek a legal consultation with an attorney from Prairie State Legal Services, Inc. There is no cost charged to the landlord or tenant for these services.
Project NOW has $1.4 million left to invest in landlords and tenants. Since the program (funded with state and federal dollars) began in May, they already have distributed $1 million throughout Rock Island County.
Last year, the agency could only fund three months back rent, and now they can do 12 months. So before, the average payout was $1,700; now it’s about $5,000 to $6,000.
Hiring Day on Tuesday in Rock Island
Project NOW is also having a hiring day Tuesday, Nov. 2 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at its offices, 418 19th St., Rock Island.
With 41 open positions, Project NOW is hosting a hiring event featuring:
- Applications filled out on the spot
- Resumes welcomed, but not required
- Walk-in Interviews
- Learn about status of new job by 5:00 pm.
Positions available include case worker, assistant teacher, drivers, outreach works, accountants and more. For more information, visit projectnow.org or call 309-793-6391.