We Must Prepare for COVID Legal Crisis
With the state projecting to lose over 50,000 jobs, Montanans who never before applied for public benefits now find themselves navigating a complex system.
Service providers like the Montana Legal Services Association and local domestic violence organizations, together with the help of many volunteer lawyers, have transitioned to virtual law firms in the wake of the crisis.
They are responding to questions and assisting Montanans facing new job losses, health impacts, domestic abuse, public benefits confusion, and potential loss of housing. If, as anticipated, economic conditions continue to worsen even as the health pandemic subsides, demand for civil legal aid will increase, not decrease, over time.
The pandemic’s effect on Montanans’ civil legal needs is urgent and will be long-lasting. The Governor’s advisory council has recommended enhanced support for providers of immediate social safety net services. Civil legal aid should be part of that immediate response in putting federal CARES Act dollars to work for those most affected.