Requests for Help With Foreclosures, Unemployment on the Rise

February 24, 2010


Washington, DC -- Requests by low-income Americans for help with foreclosure and unemployment problems are increasing, officials at the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) said at a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing today on LSC's budget request for Fiscal Year 2011.

LSC-funded programs report that the number of people coming to their legal aid offices has significantly increased, LSC Interim President Victor M. Fortuno testified. Just as the weak economy has severely impacted the poor, it has placed a great strain on the resources that support legal aid programs. Non-federal funding for legal aid programs is declining, and LSC-funded programs are concerned about their ability to provide increased services in 2010 and 2011, he said.

Fifty-four million Americans, including 18.5 million children, are eligible for LSC-funded civil legal assistance. "The justice gap is a harsh reality in our nation and the downturn in our economy has dramatically increased the number of people needing civil legal services," he said.

Interim President Fortuno and LSC Board Chairman Frank B. Strickland testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. The Subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.); Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) is the ranking member.

Chairman Strickland thanked the Subcommittee for providing a $30 million increase in funding to LSC in Fiscal Year 2010. But LSC programs face "a crisis in non-federal sources of funding" and substantial increases in requests from clients for services, he said. "More funding is required to support the critical work of LSC programs," Chairman Strickland concluded.

LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal aid for the poor in the nation. Established by Congress in 1974, LSC operates as a nonprofit organization to promote equal access to justice and to provide high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently funds 136 independent nonprofit legal aid programs across the country.

For Fiscal Year 2011, the LSC Board of Directors requested an appropriation of $516.5 million. Of that amount, 94 percent, or $484.9 million, would be distributed as basic field grants that provide for the delivery of civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and families. The request also includes funding for technology grants, an education loan repayment program for the recruitment and retention of lawyers, and grants oversight to ensure compliance and accountability by legal aid programs.

The Obama Administration is recommending that LSC receive $435 million in Fiscal Year 2011. For the current fiscal year, Congress provided LSC with an appropriation of $420 million. Of that amount, $394.4 million is for basic field grants.

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 132 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.