Senate Approves $25 Million Spending Boost for the Legal Services Corporation

The Senate passed today by a vote of 81-11 appropriations legislation that includes $440 million for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). This represents an increase of $25 million over LSC’s appropriation of $415 million last year. It is the largest appropriation in actual dollars in LSC’s history. The House of Representatives passed the same legislation on December 17. President Trump is expected to sign the legislation by midnight Friday.

“We are very grateful to Congress for increasing our appropriation to $440 million, the highest amount in LSC's 45-year history,” said LSC President James J. Sandman. “This action reflects broad bipartisan support for LSC's mission of promoting the most fundamental of American values: equal justice under law."

The majority of the appropriation is allocated for Basic Field grants to fund the direct delivery of legal assistance. LSC distributes more than 93% of its funding to 132 independent legal aid organizations serving every county in every state and the territories. These LSC-funded legal aid offices provide critical constituent services to low-income Americans. More than 60% of all cases closed involve family law matters, such as child custody, child support and adoptions, and housing matters, such as evictions and foreclosures.

The need for these legal services is enormous. LSC’s 2017 report The Justice Gap—Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans showed that low-income Americans receive no or inadequate professional help for 86% of their civil legal problems. Last year, 58.5 million low-income Americans were eligible for LSC-funded legal assistance.

This appropriation will allow LSC’s grantees to make substantial progress in serving individuals who seek legal help, but who currently receive insufficient assistance or no services at all.

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.