June 25, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC--The U.S. Congress took one step closer towards approval of a $40 million funding increase for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) today, when the House Appropriations Committee recommended $390 million for the Corporation's FY 2009 budget, an 11 percent increase over current funding levels and the same amount approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.
The Committee is led by Chairman David R. Obey (D-WI), with Jerry Lewis (R-CA) as Ranking Member. The Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, which recommended $390 million to the full committee on June 12, is led by Chairman Alan B. Mollohan (D-WV), with Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) as Ranking Member.
Karen J. Sarjeant, LSC Vice President for Programs and Compliance, praised the Committee's action, saying, "This increase would help millions of Americans enjoy a right that is guaranteed to all citizens, but one that is too often denied to the poorest: justice. I would like to thank Chairman Obey, Ranking Member Lewis, Congressmen Mollohan and Frelinghuysen, and all members of the Committee for taking this critical step towards making the dream of equal justice for all' a reality for some."
LSC's groundbreaking 2005 report, Documenting the Justice Gap in America-The Current Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans, found that chronic funding shortages force LSC's grantees to turn away 50 percent of eligible low-income Americans seeking their assistance. Since then, numerous statewide legal needs studies have found that LSC's report vastly underestimates the unmet civil legal needs of the country's poor.
LSC would distribute $367 million of the total to 137 grantees providing free civil legal services to low-income Americans in every city, county, state, and territory in the nation. An additional $3 million would be allocated to LSC's Technology Initiative Grants program, which funds innovative technology projects that help grantees more efficiently and effectively serve their clients. The Committee also dedicated $1 million to LSC's Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which helps alleviate the crushing educational debt burdens of low-paid legal aid lawyers. Of the remaining $19 million, $16 million would cover the management and oversight expenses of the Corporation and slightly more than $3 million would go to the Office of Inspector General.
LSC is an independent, non-profit Corporation created by Congress in 1974 to promote equal access to justice and to provide high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income Americans. The Corporation gives grants to independent, local programs--in 2008, 137 programs with more than 900 offices nationwide.