COLUMBUS, Ohio —Nearly a year after it was launched, Columbus based Ohio Legal Help aims to guide, inform and connect the public with real-time data.
Executive Director Susan Choe says the website removes barriers to laws and helps to close the “justice gap” in Ohio, which has been widened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
And so far, Ohioans are taking advantage of the free, anonymous service.
“We'll serve over 200,000 people in our first year of operation. And right now, depending on the metics that we're using, we're helping about 50,000 folks a month,” said Choe.
In 2015, the Ohio Supreme Court's Task Force on Access to Justice recommended a statewide website that provides legal information.
Ohio Legal Help began in the fall of 2019, and the website provides information on family, housing, money and debt, as well as health, public benefits, information for seniors, veterans, crime and courts.
Choe says in addition to unemployment questions, many folks are concerned about the extra $600 in federal unemployment insurance set to expire at the end of the month and whether or not there will be a second stimulus check.
“Folks are concerned, that stimulus really helped folks, right, whether it was so they could catch up on rent, or whether it was so they could shore up some food, some meds. Are we saying that there's going to be another stimulus, that's not for us. What we'll do is once Congress acts, if they act, we'll have that information up almost immediately,” said Choe.
According to a recent census survey, 20 percent of Hispanic and Latino and 24 percent of Black households say they were unable to pay rent, compared to 11 percent of white households.
Ohio Legal Help says if you find yourself in that situation, they provide an eviction timeline for people wondering how long the process takes and where they can get help.
“Communities have come together, put together renter assistant programs. If there's a renter assistance program in your community, we have tried to put up information about it and when it starts,” said Choe.