September 19, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC - The Legal Services Corporation, the nation's single largest source of funding for civil legal aid for the poor, has awarded $2.27 million in technology grants to LSC programs in 21 states, LSC President Helaine M. Barnett announced today.
The grants will be used for technology that makes it easier for low-income Americans to apply for legal assistance, simplifies the creation of legal documents for those who are representing themselves in court and provides information through online chats, called LiveHelp. One LSC-funded program will use its grant to redesign portions of a website to make the content available via cell phone browsers.
"LSC is constantly exploring ways to use technology to expand access to justice, by making self-help systems more available and by improving the efficiencies of LSC-funded programs to serve more low-income Americans," Helaine Barnett said. "These grants will go a long way toward improving the services that our programs provide low-income individuals and families."
For 2008, LSC has awarded 32 Technology Initiative Grants (TIG). LSC provided $1.97 million in funding and the State Justice Institute provided an additional $300,000 for the grants.
Helaine Barnett and Glenn Rawdon, the LSC program counsel in charge of TIG, praised the institute for being a steadfast supporter of TIG. "SJI is a generous partner in this effort, now in its third year," Helaine Barnett said. "We appreciate being able to work together in funding TIG."
In the competition for TIG funding, the grantees proposed innovative ways to expand client intake through online systems, expand assistance to unrepresented litigants through the development of additional automated forms and provide support for replication of technologies that improve client services.
For example, Legal Aid of West Virginia plans to use its $30,000 grant to create on-line forms for eight commonly needed pleadings in West Virginia family courts, to train court staff and others and conduct outreach to promote use of the new system. Pine Tree Legal Assistance, using part of a $77,500 grant, will create the Maine Legal Aid Mobile Web to provide legal information to Maine's low-income population over cell phones and other hand-held devices. The Legal Aid Society of Orange County was awarded $341,944 to spearhead legal services efforts to expand assistance to low-income working families so they may obtain the Earned Income Tax Credit and other tax credits by using a free online system.
"These are just a few examples of how LSC-funded programs can use technology to help the nation's poor obtain services or find legal information to help themselves," Glenn Rawdon said. "The increasing number of partnerships our programs are forming with their local courts is dramatically improving access to justice."
LSC was created by Congress in 1974 to promote equal access to justice in our nation and to provide high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income Americans. LSC, with a budget of approximately $350 million for fiscal 2008, funds 137 civil legal aid programs with more than 920 offices across the country.
The State Justice Institute award grants to improve the quality of justice in state courts, facilitate better coordination between state and federal courts, and foster innovative, efficient solutions to common issues faced by all courts.