Legal Services Corporation Slated to Receive $40 Million in Disaster Relief Funding

WASHINGTON – The House passed a Continuing Resolution last night to continue funding the federal government at FY 2021 levels through December 3, 2021. The bill includes $28.6 billion in disaster aid, $40 million of which would go to the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to support LSC-funded legal services organizations in assisting low-income Americans affected by the hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires and other extreme weather events that occurred in 2020 and this year. Organizations in California, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Tennessee and Texas would receive funding. Legal aid plays a key role in disaster recovery.

When a disaster strikes, legal services organizations work to set up recovery hotlines, staff FEMA disaster recovery centers and provide much needed short-term and long-term civil legal assistance to survivors.

“We are grateful to the House for including $40 million in legal aid funding to support the victims of disasters across the country over the past two years,” said LSC President Ronald S. Flagg. “This funding will help our neighbors repair and stay in their homes, protect them from consumer scams aimed at disaster victims, recover key identification documents such as birth certificates and licenses, and apply for recovery benefits that Congress has provided."

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. experienced 22 disasters last year that each caused at least $1 billion in damage,shattering a previous record. During the first six months of 2021, there were eight separate billion-dollar disaster events across the country. These figures don’t factor in recent devastating events, such as the impact of Hurricane Ida.

Low-income survivors are typically the hardest hit by these disasters and frequently face pressing legal needs. They may require help obtaining copies of important documents such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and Social Security cards to apply for or restore benefits and support.

Low-income and other vulnerable people who need housing after an emergency are more susceptible to scams and price-gouging. Disasters also increase need in the core areas of practice for legal aid, such as public benefits, domestic violence prevention, consumer law and fraud prevention. These types of legal services are essential in helping survivors get back on their feet.

This Continuing Resolution is needed because Congress has not passed FY 2022 appropriations legislation. Although the House passed nine of the 12 FY 2022 appropriations bills, the Senate has not moved any appropriations bills out of committee. The House Appropriations Committee passed the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill that included $600 million for LSC in July, but the bill has not come to the House floor for a vote.

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974. For 50 years, LSC has provided financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 131 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.