Domestic Violence, Eviction, and Finances Drive Virus Legal Aid Rise
Rising evictions and domestic violence are partly driving the skyrocketing demand for legal aid during the coronavirus pandemic, with groups anticipating a heavier caseload overall going forward and requesting an additional $50 million in federal funds.
“The survey responses confirm that the pandemic and its economic consequences are causing or will cause a spike in legal needs in areas such as evictions, unemployment claims, and domestic violence. America’s legal aid programs are responding innovatively to meet those needs while providing their services remotely. While facing state and local funding cuts,” LSC President Ron Flagg said in a statement.
Legal Services Corporation received $50 million in the CARES Act federal stimulus approved in March for legal work relating to the impact of coronavirus. All but $500,000, which went to grant management, was distributed to grantees by mid-April, the group said.
Congress is currently working on another stimulus package, but the timing and scope of that legislation are unclear. LSC requested another $50 million in May.
Nearly all of the 132 LSC grantees responded to the survey about their experiences during the pandemic through June.
More than three quarters said funding was insufficient going forward because of an anticipated increase in community need, a decrease in help from the states, and a need to hire more staff.
Clients include an “every ethnic group” from rural, suburban, and urban areas. Many are homeowners and renters, veterans, families with children, people with disabilities, and the elderly. Women comprise 70% of clients, LSC says. Clinics are often staffed by pro-bono attorneys.