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November 18, 2011

Congress Pares Down Nationwide Legal Aid

Access to justice for many Americans came to the vote Thursday as Congress slashed FY12 funding by $56 million, or 14 percent, for the Legal Services Corporation, which helps subsidize legal aid for low-income residents and provides assistance to lawyers who serve them.

Funding was set at $348 million by a 298-121 vote in the House of Representatives and 70-30 in the Senate.

The LSC is the largest provider of civil legal aid in the nation, distributing 95 percent of its funding to legal aid programs in each of the fifty states. This funding provides direct legal services to people who have incomes below or near the poverty line.

LSCareagraph_294“Funding provided through the Legal Services Corporation is the only way millions of Americans can bring their civil cases—child support and custody decisions, foreclosures and veterans’ benefit disputes, for example—to court,” said _ President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III.

Due to the recession, the demand for LSC-funded programs has increased.  More than 63 million Americans are now eligible for civil legal assistance, including 22 million children.  Over the last year, LSC reports that local legal aid staff had twice as many clients seeking help than their programs could handle.

The ABA supports LSC funding through an ongoing grassroots legislative advocacy campaign involving ABA, state, local and specialty bar leaders.

“The ABA will work diligently with Congress to seek restoration of the $56 million in lost—and desperately needed—funding in a future budget year,” Robinson said.

The House of Representatives had proposed an allocation of $300 million and the Senate proposed $396 million.

For fiscal year 2011, LSC was allocated $398 million.  In his FY12 budget request released in February, President Barack Obama asked for an increase to $450 million.

ABA News Service is a free service of the _. News and media organizations may use, republish, reprint or redistribute this content with credit to ABA News Service as the original source of this content.

Comments (2)

  • Marlin M. Volz, Jr
    4:52 PM November 20, 2011

    As Vice President of H.E.L.P. Legal Assistance in Davenport, Iowa I know the vital legal services that it provides and the devasting affect on its ability to deliver these services caused by reductions in revenue. Funding for legal services is much more important to society than maintaining tax cuts. Legal services must not be the whipping boy for the need to reduce the deficit.

  • GEORGE A DAVILA
    5:50 AM November 30, 2011

    IF THERE IS LESS FUNDING FOR LEGAL AID,THERE WILL BE MORE INJUSTICES FOR THE POOR.IN A 20 YEAR SPAN FUNDS HAVE DRASTICALLY BEEN CUT TO ALMOST HALF HENCE NOW YOU SEE A LOT WHO ARE NOT REPRESENTED LEGALLY WHICH IN TURN CAUSES OTHER FACTORS SUCH AS POOR HOUSING,MORE INCARCERATION ETC ETC ETC.MORE FUNDS SHOULD BE SET ASIDE FOR THIS PROGRAM!