LSC Updates - August 31, 2005
LSC ANNOUNCES OPENING OF DISASTER RELIEF DESK FOR HURRICANE VICTIMS
August 31, 2005
LSC President Helaine M. Barnett, the Board of Directors, and staff extend our deepest concerns to the staff of our local programs, their families, and clients throughout the Gulf Coast region. In the wake of this disaster, we would like to offer assistance to our local programs. We encourage them to contact LSC's Disaster Relief Desk at (202) 295-1500 and speak with Lora Rath or Danilo Cardona to begin the process of applying for LSC disaster relief funds.
LSC LAUNCHES LEADERSHIP MENTORING PILOT PROGRAM
August 31, 2005
The LSC Leadership Mentoring Pilot Program, a national leadership development program, is looking for 10 Mentors and 10 Protgs to take the challenge to focus on the development of future legal services leaders. Participants in the Pilot Program will benefit from collaborative learning through several mentoring events, including group training events, brainstorming opportunities, and one-on-one ongoing mentoring relationships with experienced legal services leaders. The deadline to apply for this program is September 12, 2005. To read the full program description and to apply online, go to www.rin.lsc.gov. Questions about the LSC Leadership Mentoring Pilot Program can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
RUSH FOR EXPANDED POOL OF LEGAL AID FUNDS ABOUT TO START
By Stephanie Potter, Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (IL) - August 24, 2005
State funding will be available for legal aid groups to provide housing and consumer law advice to the poor, under proposed grant guidelines released by the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation. The foundation is in charge of divvying up $1.9 million in funding for legal aid, up from $473,000 in previous years. The state budget increase meant that the foundation had to rework its grant guidelines.
Executive Director Leslie A. Corbett said the foundation hopes to finalize the grant guidelines by Sept. 19, with the deadline for applications on Oct. 14. Grant awards will be made in January. "It's going to be fast and furious," Corbett said.
The decision to include funding for housing and consumer law was based on a legal needs study released earlier this year that found those were among the leading categories of legal problems faced by Illinois' poor, Corbett said. The survey was conducted by the Lawyers' Trust Fund of Illinois and sponsored by that organization, the Chicago Bar Foundation, The Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association and the Illinois Bar Foundation. Overall, the survey found that low-income households got help for one in six legal problems encountered in 2003.
The federal funding picture for 2006 remains unclear. The Legal Services Corp., which distributes federal funding, is the largest single source of legal aid funding in Illinois, according to the legal needs survey. In 2005, it provided nearly $11 million for field operations in Illinois, said LSC spokeswoman Hydi Miller.
For 2006, the LSC is requesting a total budget of nearly $364 million [up from more than $331 million this year]. But the appropriation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives left funding essentially unchanged. The U.S. Senate won't take up the issue until mid-September, Miller said.
The legal needs survey showed that federal funding for legal aid decreased by 38 percent from 1987 to 2003 when adjusted for inflation, making state funding even more crucial. (To read the article in its entirety, go to: www.lawbulletin.com)
MISSOURI BAR'S LOAN REPAYMENT PROGRAM IS SEVERELY UNDERFUNDED, SAYS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
By Charles Emerick, Kansas City Daily Record (MO) - August 17, 2005
A smaller than expected number of lawyers will receive assistance from a Missouri Bar program if it doesn't soon get help from the legal community. The Loan Repayment Assistance Program, designed to assist new attorneys entering public service with paying off law school debts, is severely under funded, according to program coordinator Stephen Murrell.
Murrell said the goal was to raise $250,000 in cash donations and pledges. However, the LRAP has received about $150,000 to date. "It's an ongoing process," Murrell said. "I think people don't realize how far in debt many people get after law school. Not all lawyers make a lot of money."
The program, which launched in 2004, is a cooperative effort between The Missouri Bar and The Missouri Bar Foundation. It is funded solely through the generosity of Missouri lawyers. Semi-annual awards of up to $2,000 will be given to attorneys who qualify. The first awards will be handed out at The Missouri Bar Annual Meeting on Sept. 22 and 23 in Kansas City. Priority will be given to attorneys working for the Missouri State Public Defender System, criminal prosecutors and legal services attorneys. (To read the article in its entirety, go to: www.kcdailyrecord.com/
APPEALS FROM TENNCARE ENROLLEES KEEPING ASSISTANCE AGENCIES BUSY
News Channel 5 (TN) - August 22, 2005
The state of Tennessee has begun the process of removing almost 200,000 people from TennCare. Many of those being cut are filing appeals, and the job of listening to those appeals is a time-consuming one.
The Legal Aid Society is one group people can turn to if they want to fight the cuts. The group helps people who need a lawyer to represent them in their appeal, and they have been flooded with calls in recent weeks. "We're kind of the last line of defense. We're their last hope, we're their last ditch effort, 'Is their anything I can do?' And so many times the answer is no," said Charlie Dodrill of the Legal Aid Society.
The Department of Human Services has received more than 50,000 appeals so far from people being taken off the TennCare rolls, but no hearings have been set. People at the Legal Aid Society said it won't be easy for anyone to win an appeal and keep their coverage. "If you're going to die because you are getting cut off, that doesn't put you in the right category. So according to the law, it is not going to help you," Dodrill said.
The state pointed out that those being cut do get help from a safety net. Drug Discount Cards give 10-50 percent discounts. RX Outreach provides access to free generic drugs. And Pharmacy Assistance gives people a chance to get free name-brand drugs.
But Charlie Dodrill said that safety net cannot help all the people he talks to. "I imagine there will be quite a few deaths as a result of it. I'm not saying that politically or anything, but the people I talk to, quite a few of them are really going to suffer," Dodrill said.
The Department of Human Services hired extra attorneys to review the appeals it has received. There is no word about when the state will start hearing those appeals. (To read the article in its entirety, go to: www.newschannel5.com)
DONORS GENEROUS TO WORKING MOTHER
By Lynn Arditi, The Providence Journal (RI) - August 19, 2005
The money will be used to try to stop the foreclosure of Diana Ubiles Agosta's house in South Providence. More than 300 donors, mostly individuals and families, have contributed about $32,000 to a fund set up by Rhode Island Legal Services to benefit a woman profiled in The Sunday Journal who walks five miles to her job at Wal-Mart.
The nonprofit agency plans to use the donations on behalf of its client, Diana Ubiles Agosta, to try to stop the foreclosure scheduled for Sept. 13 on her house in South Providence, Agosta's legal services lawyer, Jeffrey Dana said.
The legal services agency is waiting to hear back from Agosta's lender, California-based Countrywide Home Loans, about how much it will cost to pay off Agosta's mortgage, Dana said, so the agency can refinance her house and lower her monthly payments. Countrywide told the agency earlier this month that Agosta owes about $22,000 -- $17,000 in mortgage payments plus another $5,000 in lawyers' fees, late charges and other expenses.
As of yesterday, the legal services agency had received 347 checks totaling $32,264.92 for a client services account set up for Agosta, according to an accounting provided by the agency. (To read the article in its entirety, go to: www.projo.com/metro/content/projo_20050819_
NUMBER OF COLORADO HUMAN TRAFFICKING CASES RISES
By Fernando Quintero, Rocky Mountain News (CO) - August 17, 2005
Immigrant agricultural workers as well as women and children forced into prostitution are among the growing number of human trafficking victims in Colorado, according to state legal aid representatives.
Joined by the consuls general of Mexico, Peru and Guatemala, attorneys with Colorado Legal Services gave a presentation Tuesday at the Denver offices of the Mexican consulate to bring attention to what they characterized as a "form of modern-day slavery."
While forced prostitution is the most commonly known form of human trafficking, victims may be in other forced-labor situations as migrant farm workers, domestic servants (nannies or maids), janitors, and workers in restaurants, fisheries, sweatshops and hotels. Many in these occupations are immigrant workers from Latin America. Illegal immigrants and those with limited or no knowledge of English are most vulnerable to exploitation, said Patricia Medige, a Colorado Legal Services attorney. (To read the article in its entirety, go to: www.rockymountainnews.com/
Note: LSC-funded programs may represent victims of trafficking notwithstanding the general prohibition on representing illegal aliens.
Client Success Story
SUCCESS STORY FROM SOUTH JERSEY LEGAL SERVICES
As the result of a lawsuit filed by South Jersey Legal Services (SJLS), a New Jersey municipal redevelopment plan must now provide for affordable replacement housing for city residents living in the redevelopment zone.
The suit, filed by SJLS on behalf of the Hispanic Alliance of Atlantic County, challenged Ventnor City's redevelopment plan under the federal Fair Housing Act and New Jersey Law Against Discrimination based on the plan's disparate impact on the community's Hispanic residents. According to census data, approximately 42% of the targeted redevelopment area is Hispanic, in contrast to Ventnor's overall Hispanic population of 17%.
The settlement came after the first day of trial yielded testimony demonstrating that the City's Hispanic population was highly concentrated in the neighborhood targeted for redevelopment and would be disproportionately affected by housing demolition under the plan. Ventnor's governing body approved the settlement at its meeting Thursday night.
Under the settlement, 20% of the 375 new housing units expected to be built as part of the Ventnor redevelopment plan will be affordable units, of which 45 will be rental units and 30 will be affordable to first time buyers. The settlement also provides that existing rental households displaced by the process will have the first right to elect occupancy of newly constructed and/or rehabbed affordable units.
Further, the settlement requires the City to take affirmative measures to ensure that all other tenants are relocated within Ventnor.
The settlement also requires that Ventnor contract with an appropriate social service agency serving the Hispanic community to perform necessary outreach activities to Hispanic/Latino households to ensure that they are fully informed about, and able to take advantage of, the affordable housing opportunities and other rights available to them. In addition to those outreach activities, the agreement also requires that the City provide a qualified translator to work with the relocation officer and provide copies of all relocation notices and information in Spanish.
According to SJLS Deputy Director Douglas Gershuny, the settlement "squarely and adequately addresses the issues that caused this lawsuit to be filed: the loss of affordable housing in an already tight market and the use of redevelopment plan to displace those least able to bear its burden. It is a clear victory for our clients in Ventnor."
Gershuny noted that SJLS is currently involved in litigation challenging redevelopment plans in other southern New Jersey communities, including Mount Holly and Camden. "Hopefully this settlement will send a message to those communities as well."