Access to justice could be compromised for Americans living near the poverty line as a result of Congress’ vote yesterday to slash funding for the Legal Services Corporation by $56 million, or about 15 percent, for fiscal year 2012.
American Bar Association President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III issued a statement today about the implications of these cuts:
“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. Congress must weigh the need to shrink our nation’s burgeoning budget deficit against the fundamental need of low-income citizens to access our justice system. While the LSC stands to lose $56 million in the budget agreement, the American Bar Association will work diligently with Congress to seek restoration of the lost and desperately needed funding in a future budget year.”
LSC is the nation’s single largest provider of civil legal aid, distributing 95 percent of its federal appropriation to 136 legal aid programs, with more than 900 offices nationwide. At least one LSC grantee is present in each of the 50 states.
As specified in this year’s LSC budget, a shortfall of anticipated funding will immediately impact its grants to state and local LSC offices. LSC funding cuts will not affect administrative line items, programs on loan assistance and technology initiatives.
More than 63 million low-income residents, including 22 million children, are eligible for assistance through LSC-supported offices across the country. LSC grantees provide direct services to approximately 1 million constituents who struggle to get by on incomes below or near the poverty line.
LSC has faced reductions of more than $20 million over the past two fiscal years. Legal services organizations have also seen declines in other sources of funding, such as state appropriations, private giving and Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts.
For further information on the implications of the vote:
- For state-by-state information on LSC programs, look here.
- For accounts from real people who have used LSC, look here.
- For more information about what LSC does, look here.
- For further information on the implications of the vote, please see ABA resource page.
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
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