Senate Bill Would Provide $400 Million in Funding to LSC

June 26, 2009


Washington, DC- The Senate Appropriations Committee on June 25 approved $400 million in Fiscal Year 2010 funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), an increase of $10 million.

Most of the funding-$374.6 million-would be distributed through grants to 137 independent nonprofit legal aid programs that deliver legal assistance to low-income individuals and families across the nation.

LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal assistance for the poor in the nation.  Established by Congress in 1974, LSC operates as a private, nonprofit organization to promote equal access to justice and to ensure the provision of high-quality legal assistance to low-income Americans.

The Senate Appropriations Committee acted on the proposed LSC budget as part of the Fiscal 2010 Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill.  Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) serves as the committee's chairman and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) is the ranking member.  The Senate subcommittee that oversees LSC funding is chaired by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.); the ranking member is Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)

In addition to proposing $374.6 million in funding for the delivery of legal assistance to the poor, the Senate bill would provide $3.4 million for technology innovation grants; $1 million for student loan repayment assistance to help nonprofit legal aid programs recruit and retain talented attorneys; $4 million for the LSC Office of Inspector General, and $17 million for management and grants oversight.

The Senate bill differs from the appropriations measure approved by the House of Representatives on June 19 and, if passed in its present form, will require House and Senate negotiations later this year on a final funding blueprint for LSC.  The budget recommendation from the Senate committee is $40 million less than the LSC appropriation approved by the House, and $35 million less than requested by the Obama Administration in May.

The Senate bill would continue existing limitations on the use of federal funds but would lift restrictions on the use of non-federal funds except in litigation involving abortion and cases involving prisoners.  The House bill would continue existing limitations on LSC funds and non-LSC funds, but would remove the restriction on the ability to claim, or collect and retain, attorneys' fees, regardless of the funding source.

The Obama Administration has proposed eliminating existing limitations on the use of non-LSC funds and would lift restrictions that prohibit the use of any funds to claim, or collect and retain, attorneys' fees and participate in class-action lawsuits.

Under restrictions enacted in 1996, Congress prohibited the use of funds from all sources-federal, state, local and private-for certain activities.  The restrictions include prohibitions on lobbying government offices or legislative bodies except for limited situations; representing people who are not U.S. citizens except in certain circumstances; class actions; attorneys' fees; soliciting clients in person; abortion-related litigation; most activities involving welfare reform; redistricting activities; influencing the taking of the census; representing prisoners, and representing people being evicted from public housing if they face criminal charges of selling or distributing illegal drugs.

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.