November 6, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC -- The Senate approved $400 million for the Fiscal Year 2010 budget of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) last night, an increase of $10 million.
Most of the funding -- $374.6 million -- would be distributed as grants to 137 independent, nonprofit legal aid programs that deliver civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and families across America.
LSC is the single-largest funder of civil legal assistance for the poor in the nation. Established by Congress in 1974, LSC operates as a private, nonprofit organization to promote equal access to justice and to ensure the provision of high-quality legal assistance to low-income Americans.
Funding for LSC is contained in the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 71 to 28. The Senate Appropriations Committee, which approved the bill on June 25, is led by Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). The subcommittee that drafted the bill is chaired by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.); the ranking member is Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), who chaired a hearing last year on closing the justice gap, spoke on the Senate floor in support of the increase.
Said LSC President Helaine M. Barnett, "I would like to thank Chairmen Inouye and Mikulski, Ranking Members Cochran and Shelby, Senator Cardin and other Senators for taking this step to help close the justice gap. Millions of low-income Americans are desperately seeking legal assistance during these difficult economic times, and I hope that the Senate continues to address this critical need going forward."
In September, LSC released its updated report on the justice gap in America, which found that for every client served by LSC programs, another person who seeks help is turned away due to a lack of program resources. The conclusion reaffirms the findings of the original report on the justice gap published by LSC in 2005.
The total funding approved by the Senate includes $3.4 million for technology grants that improve access to legal assistance for the poor, $1 million for loan repayment assistance to legal aid lawyers, $17 million for management and grants oversight and $4 million for the LSC Office of the Inspector General.
The Senate bill differs from the version passed by the House of Representatives and will require negotiators from the two chambers to agree on a final version to submit for the President's signature. The Senate's funding level is $40 million less than what the House approved on June 18 and $35 million less than what the Obama Administration requested in May.