February 26, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC - The House of Representatives approved a $40 million budget increase for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) on Feb. 25 as part of the fiscal 2009 omnibus appropriations bill.
The 11 percent increase would bring funding for the Corporation to a total of $390 million, the third consecutive year that the House has supported additional funding to provide civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and families. Most of the funding, $365.8 million, would be awarded as competitive grants to 137 nonprofit legal aid programs across the nation.
Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees LSC, said the Corporation "is an important, significant program that provides legal assistance to people who are unable to afford it. We know that the poor are hit hard during economic downturns, and this funding will help more low-income Americans faced with unlawful evictions, domestic violence and other serious legal problems."
LSC President Helaine M. Barnett said, "I want to thank the House Appropriations Committee chairman, Rep. David Obey, Subcommittee Chairman Alan Mollohan and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, the Ranking Member in the 110th Congress, for working to make this increase possible. An additional $40 million will allow legal aid programs throughout the country to serve the most vulnerable among us, especially at a time when they are at risk of losing their jobs, health care and shelter. The additional funding also will strengthen our oversight of grants and ensure that they are administered efficiently and effectively."
Last year, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees recommended that the Corporation's appropriation increase to $390 million, from $350.5 million in fiscal 2008. The bill approved by the House includes funding for technology grants that expand access to legal information, for a loan repayment program that helps new lawyers burdened with education-related debt, and for increased oversight of legal assistance grants.
According to recent census data, nearly 51 million people, including 17.6 million children, are eligible for legal services funded by the Corporation. This poverty snapshot does not reflect the impact of the recession, suggesting that even more people are eligible for legal assistance than have shown up in official counts.
An overwhelming demand already existed for civil legal services before the recession. A 2005 study by the Corporation, "Documenting the Justice Gap: The Current Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans," found that for every eligible person helped by an LSC-funded program, another was turned away. Subsequent studies in several states have documented that the number of low-income Americans in need of civil legal services but without access is far higher than outlined in the Justice Gap report.
The Legal Services Corporation is the single largest provider of civil legal aid for the poor in the nation. Established by Congress in 1974, the Corporation operates as a private, nonprofit organization to promote equal access to justice and to provide high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income Americans.