September 12, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Helaine M. Barnett, President of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the nation's single largest source of funding for civil legal aid for the poor, today announced 2007 Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) totaling $2.1 million. The State Justice Institute is providing an additional $321,000 in matching funds for seven joint projects. LSC-funded programs in 25 states and the territory of Micronesia will be receiving the grants.
The TIG program, created by Congress in 2000, has stressed self-help since its inception. Stretching limited resources with self-help is a priority since LSC-funded programs lack the resources to serve many--if not most--of those eligible to receive civil legal aid. LSC's groundbreaking report, Documenting the Justice Gap: The Current Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans, completed in September 2005, documents that nationwide, for every eligible person helped by LSC-funded programs, another is turned away. Fifty percent of those actually seeking help are turned away for one primary reason: lack of resources. Other estimates of the unmet need are even higher: more than 90 percent in the poorest states.
More than 60 percent of this year's TIG money will be used to help pro se litigants--people who represent themselves in court proceedings--in nine states: Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, New York, Ohio, Washington, and West Virginia. A user-friendly Web-based program called A2J (short for "access to justice") collects information, asks questions in plain English, compiles the answers, and enters them in forms that are customized to meet state requirements using another program called HotDocs. Pro se litigants and pro bono lawyers have used A2J and HotDocs, which were developed with TIG support, to generate more than 70,000 legal documents--and the number continues to grow.
The second largest share of the grant money is earmarked for projects to enhance and expand a Web-based program that takes a similar user-friendly approach to preparing income tax returns, called I-CAN! This program, which was developed by the Legal Aid Society of Orange County, California, with TIG support, has helped low-income Americans in 45 states secure more than $17 million in federal earned-income tax credits since 2003. Residents of California, Michigan, Montana, and New York can also use I-CAN! to file state returns, and Pennsylvania will soon join the list.
The remaining grant money will be used to enhance legal services Web sites and client service with tools such as LiveHelp (which gives users access to real people as its name implies) and to increase the efficiency of LSC-funded programs by automating functions such as routing telephone calls and tracking case files.
Congress created LSC in 1974 and entrusted it with a dual mission: to promote equal access to justice and to provide high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income Americans. A bipartisan, 11-member Board of Directors-appointed by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate-oversees all aspects of LSC operations.
For a complete list of 2007 Technology Initiative Grants, click here.
For a TIG Fact Sheet, click here.
For an LSC Fact Sheet, click here.