LSC’s 2023 Budget Request Seeks $1.26 Billion to Narrow Justice Gap, Address Surge in Demand Sparked by Pandemic

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WASHINGTON – The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is asking Congress for an appropriation of $1.26 billion in its FY 2023 budget request. This request addresses the anticipated increase in demand for civil legal services due to the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 is having on low-income communities, in addition to the continuing lack of adequate resources to provide civil legal assistance to the millions of Americans eligible for LSC-funded services. The Biden Administration has requested $700 million for LSC in FY 2023—the largest White House request ever put forward.

“Legal aid providers are in desperate need of additional resources to address the growing needs of low-income Americans facing unemployment claims, evictions, incidents of domestic violence and other serious legal problems,” said LSC President Ron Flagg. “All around the country, our grantees work tirelessly to assist people for whom these situations may otherwise be insurmountable.”

LSC’s budget request follows decades of chronic underfunding of civil legal aid. In FY 1994—28 years ago—Congress appropriated $400 million for LSC. LSC’s appropriation has increased only modestly—to $489 million in FY 2022—not remotely enough to keep up with inflation, much less the increased demand for services resulting from recessions and the pandemic that have occurred over the last three decades. Adjusted for inflation, LSC’s 1980 appropriation of $300 million would be more than $900 million in 2022 dollars.

LSC’s FY 2023 request has two goals. First, reduce the Justice Gap—the difference between the civil legal needs of low-income Americans and the resources available to meet those needs—by 75%. Second, increase LSC’s Basic Field grants by 70% to enable legal aid organizations to respond to COVID-19.

Every year, millions of low-income Americans are denied access to justice. A 2017 LSC report showed that 86% of the civil legal problems of low-income Americans received no or inadequate help. LSC’s forthcoming 2022 Justice Gap study shows that the unmet needs of low-income Americans have increased significantly since 2021.

The severe financial insecurity of vulnerable populations — nearly two years into the economic recovery — indicates that the demand for LSC’s grantees’ services will continue to spike in 2023. LSC’s request includes an additional $328 million in Basic Field grants to address the need for accessible pandemic-related legal services.

The civil legal needs of low-income Americans have surged, especially in the issue areas served by LSC grantees, including eviction, unemployment, domestic violence and health care. More than 95% of LSC’s budget request would go directly toward funding more than 130 civil legal aid organizations with offices in every congressional district in each state.

The global pandemic, and the increasing numbers of people newly eligible for legal services, means that there is extraordinary need for substantially increased federal financial support for civil legal aid.

Read LSC’s budget request.

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.

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