LSC and COVID-19
Senate Bipartisan Support for LSC Request for Additional $50 millionSens. Cornyn (R-TX), Murphy (D-CT), Sullivan (R-AK) and Durbin (D-IL) sent a bipartisan letter on May 8 to the Senate Appropriations Committee in support of LSC’s request for an additional $50 million to enable our grantees to confront the enormity of the enormous challenges resulting from COVID-19. The House Caucus on Civil Legal Aid sent a similar bipartisan letter to the House Appropriations Committee on April 8.
Senate Supplemental Appropriations Letter
House Caucus Support Letter
Conference of Chief Justices Conference of State Court Administrators Support Letter
COVID and the Courts
A Report from the President of the Conference of Chief Justices
Listen to Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht's predictions on the future of state courts functioning during and after the pandemic. He also makes predictions on the future of court proceedings, explains the difficulty of conducting jury trials amid COVID-19 and offers cautionary reminders about cybersecurity.
COVID-19 Response Grant
The Legal Services Corporation(LSC) received $50 million in the $2 trillion stimulus package passed by the Senate to stabilize households and businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The funding will help LSC’s 132 grantees assist low-income clients facing job losses, evictions and other problems stemming from the pandemic.
CARES Act Spending Plan
In the CARES Act, Congress appropriated $50 million in supplemental funding to the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) for legal aid work “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally . . . .” By April 20, 2020, LSC had awarded and distributed $49.5 million (99%) to grantees already delivering legal aid through LSC grants. The remaining $500,000 will be applied to management and oversight costs. LSC has provided grantees with guidance for required quarterly reporting.
Additionally, LSC requires detailed case and other services reporting. All CARES Act funding is subject to extensive LSC oversight including annual audits by independent public accountants, oversight by the LSC Office of Compliance and Enforcement and Office of Program Performance, and review by the LSC Office of Inspector General. LSC’s management of CARES Act funding builds on LSC’s 45 years of experience managing legal aid grants with congressionally appropriated funds, including managing $31 million of appropriated supplemental funds for disaster‐relief grants since 2013.
Telework Capacity Building Grant
The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) issued over $2 million for grants to support building the telework capacity of LSC grantees during the Coronavirus outbreak. Grantees received up to $25,000 for equipment, services, and related expenses to improve or expand their telework and remote access capabilities to better serve low-income populations during a time of recommended or required telework.
COVID-19 Data Tools and Resources
These resources were assembled to help LSC grantees identify high need areas in local communities, measure trends in local conditions over time, or compare the impact of COVID-19 across jurisdictions.
Frequently Asked Questions
LSC is maintaining and updating a list of questions and answers regarding pandemic issues affecting grants, grantee operations, and client services.
Below are summaries of a few of the most recently updated answers.
29. Do unemployment benefits provided as “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” to people who normally would not qualify for those benefits count as “income” under Part 1611?
- Yes, with adjustments. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits are income under Part 1611 the same as regular unemployment benefits. Nonetheless, unemployment benefits are not available for a full year. Thus, you may annualize them based on the expected duration of payments, prior income, and future income prospects. Also, you may consider exceptions to the annual income ceiling pursuant to § 1611.5 due to the pandemic, as discussed in the answer above regarding the extra $600 per week and more fully in the FAQ, linked to below.
30. Can COVID-related out-of-pocket medical expenses be charged to the COVID-19 Supplemental grant?
- Yes. COVID-related out-of-pocket medical expenses qualify as a COVID-related cost and can be charged to the COVID-19 Supplemental grant. The expense must be for a reasonable medical item and limited to the actual amount charged to and paid by the employee. A COVID-19 or antibody test is a reasonable medical item for anyone during the pandemic. As with all employee benefits, a grantee needs to follow and document appropriate procedures, including documenting that the cost was not paid for by insurance or anyone else (e.g., a statement from the employee, a statement from the grantee’s benefits coordinator, or a denial from the insurer). If the grantee’s benefits policies don’t already provide for reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses, then the grantee must also document the management decision to provide reimbursement, any changes to the policies, and any board input or notice if needed. Grantees also must make sure to report the payment appropriately (e.g., taxable income or other appropriate category of payment).
31. Can COVID-19 Supplemental Grant Funding be used to pay a stipend or as compensation to law student interns who will largely be supporting grantee work around pandemic-related cases?
- Yes. The COVID-19 Response Grant Special Grant Terms and Conditions state that these funds must be used “for any activities to prevent, prepare for, or respond to coronavirus.” Law student interns whose work will support pandemic-related cases may be compensated with COVID-19 Supplemental Grant Funding. The law student’s work must involve COVID-19 related, permissible activities and must be coded as such. The grantee should give careful consideration to staffing allocation among the grantee’s funding sources. Further, as a reminder, 45 CFR § 1614.4(b)(7) prohibits allocating compensation paid to law students to the PAI requirement. Please contact LSC if you need further guidance on this topic.
Training Series: COVID-19 Reporting
Legal Services Corporation Will Receive $50 Million in Coronavirus Stimulus Bill
March 26, 2020
WASHINGTON–The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) will receive $50 million in the $2 trillion stimulus package passed by the Senate today to stabilize households and businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak.The funding would help LSC’s 132 grantees assist low-income clients facing job losses, evictions and other problems stemming from the pandemic.
“We are grateful that Congress has recognized that COVID-19 is going to dramatically increase the life-altering civil legal needs faced by low income Americans and that legal aid can make a meaningful difference in addressing those needs,” said LSC President Ronald S. Flagg.
In response to the growing legal needs of Americans arising from the coronavirus (COVID-19), the American Bar Association has created a nationwide task force of volunteer lawyers and judges from across the legal profession. The task force will identify the legal needs arising from the pandemic, make recommendations to address those needs, and help mobilize volunteer lawyers and legal professionals to assist people who need help.
Many of you have been reaching out to your program liaisons with questions related to the impact of COVID-19 on your daily operations and client services. To ensure that we’re addressing all of your questions and concerns with a unified voice, we are instituting a regular conference call with grantees.
Click here to download the powerpoint from our 3/19 COVID-19 webinar
Click here to download the powerpoint from our 4/14 COVID-19 webinar
Dispatches from the Field
Gary F. Smith, Executive Director
Legal Services of Northern California
March 28, 2020
Yesterday marked the second full week of LSNC’s transition to a fully remote delivery system. Our offices are closed, with all staff—even support staff—working from home, using Internet telephones, laptops, and all sorts of other wizardry and gadgetry that I don’t understand. And yet in those two weeks we have opened nearly 500 new cases (many of which we have already closed after providing advice and counsel or brief service).
I am amazed—and heartened—by the flexibility and positive spirit with which not only my staff, but our entire community, has approached this crisis.