It’s likely that many of our readers are not familiar with Legal Services Corp. (LSC), the nation’s largest provider of funding for civil legal services for low-income Americans, and the good work they do around the U.S. That’s certainly understandable. For those who fall into this category, and would like to learn more about LSC, I hope they will check out what the LSC is all about. I can tell you that they do a good and badly needed service for low-income folks and specifically for “the poor” in our country.
I believe strongly that LSC, which has asked Congress for $486 million in funding for 2015, should be adequately funded. This is the same amount it requested a year ago. But Congress only provided $365 million in that budget. The bulk of the nonprofit corporation’s request – some $451 million – would flow toward grants that fund the delivery of civil legal assistance in areas including housing and foreclosure, consumer lending cases, bankruptcy filings and fights over the retention of private or public benefits including disability. These are areas where low-income folks badly need access to legal representation. The budget request by Legal Services Corp. is broken down as follows:
LSC has a definite role in our country’s system of justice. It helps low-income folks who can’t afford to pay a lawyer in a variety of areas. LSC President James J. Sandman had this to say: “Our request to Congress balances record-high demand for civil legal aid against the realities of the federal budget environment.”
The pro bono line item comes from LSC’s 2012 report that calls for a separately funded effort aimed at encouraging innovations and best practices in pro bono. It was recommended by LSC that “this challenge grant be a newly funded program, and that resources not be taken from critically needed existing funds for LSC grantees.” LSC noted that the White House’s proposed budget of $430 million — plus potentially more money from a $56 billion Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative that would be paid for with tax loophole closures and various spending reforms — showed President Barack Obama “understands the importance of adequately funding civil legal assistance, even in these tough financial times.” LSC Board Chairman John G. Levi said he was grateful that the president proposed a nearly 18 percent increase over current funding and has included LLC in his new budget initiative.
In late January, the delayed signing into law of a $1.1 trillion federal spending plan funded LSC at $365 million, marking an increase of $25 million from 2013, it said. That signing marked the federal government’s first move to fund the pro bono innovation effort to the tune of $2.5 million.
Meanwhile, the request for money for technology grants would allow LSC to fund efforts such as growing online destinations where users can get legal forms and documents completed using interactive questions and answers, as well as civil legal “triage” systems that interactively guide users to resources most likely to help them. LSC noted on March 5 that had its budget kept pace with inflation since its 1995 appropriation of $400 million, the current request would now top $600 million. Hopefully, Congress will adequately fund LSC. I know for a fact that the Montgomery office provides a most valuable service to low-income citizens in our area.
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