February 14, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC - The White House budget request for Fiscal Year 2012, released today, recommends $450 million in funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to provide civil legal assistance to low-income Americans requesting help to avert foreclosures, obtain veterans’ benefits, escape domestic violence, and deal with consumer fraud and other critical matters.
LSC is currently funded at $420 million, as part of a short-term funding bill that continues federal operations at Fiscal Year 2010 levels. That short-term measure expires March 4, and Congress is working to complete a Fiscal Year 2011 funding bill. Congressional appropriations to LSC represent the largest single source of funding for civil legal assistance.
Almost 94 percent of the White House budget request would be distributed to fund 136 independent nonprofit legal aid programs with more than 900 offices across the country. Last year, these LSC-funded programs closed cases affecting about 2.3 million people.
“We greatly appreciate the proposed budget increase sent to the Congress by President Obama,” LSC Board Chairman John G. Levi said. “All of us in this country must make sure that our justice system works for the millions of Americans who are among the most vulnerable in our society and that we fulfill our national promise of equal access to justice. Civil legal assistance goes to the heart of the fairness of our justice system, and in all economic times we must recognize the importance of the proper functioning of our civil justice system as a central value of the country.”
Last year, the LSC Board of Directors adopted a resolution seeking $516.5 million for Fiscal Year 2012, the same funding level the Board requested for Fiscal Year 2011. The Board, in keeping with its focus on the large unmet legal needs of low-income Americans, took into account rising poverty rates, the impact of the recent economic downturn, and a sharp decline in Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) and other sources of legal aid funding.
“It is imperative that we increase funding for civil legal assistance. More people need legal services than ever because of the recession, high unemployment, and the slow economic recovery. Because of inadequate resources, many LSC-funded programs are struggling to keep their heads above water and maintain basic levels of services to their clients,” LSC President James J. Sandman said.
The White House’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget request would provide $420 million for the provision of civil legal assistance; $5 million for technology grants to improve access to legal assistance and self-help guides for low-income Americans; $1 million for student loan repayment assistance to legal aid staff attorneys; $19.5 million for management and grants oversight, and $4.35 million for the LSC Office of Inspector General.
Established in 1974, LSC is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation that promotes equal access to justice and funds high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and families. LSC-funded programs provide legal services to persons at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty guideline. Nearly 57 million Americans—including 19.6 million children—qualify for civil legal assistance from LSC-funded programs.
Click here for the White House budget request.
(See Appendix, Other Independent Agencies)