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Carl Rauscher
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LSC Urges Congress to Increase Legal Aid Funding

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April 1, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Washington, DC -- The Legal Services Corporation today urged a House Appropriations subcommittee to increase funding in Fiscal Year 2010 for civil legal assistance to the nation's poor.

LSC President Helaine M. Barnett and LSC Board of Directors Vice Chairman Lillian R. BeVier testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. The Subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.); Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) is the ranking member.

"We are appreciative of the good work that you do," Subcommittee Chairman Mollohan said at the hearing. "I can only imagine that your workload has increased significantly," he said, noting that "the recession is driving more and more Americans below the poverty thresholds that establish eligibility for legal aid services. This growing population of eligible clients is confronted with legal needs that are increasing in both number and complexity."

Other subcommittee members also expressed support for the work carried out by the 137 LSC-funded programs across the nation. "I've always been supportive of legal services," Ranking Member Wolf said, adding that "I believe deeply in legal services." Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-N.Y.) said "I'm a big fan" of LSC and "want to be very supportive in these very difficult times." Rep. John A. Culberson (R-Tex.) said LSC provides "an absolutely essential service and one that we need to continue to fund."

In her testimony, LSC President Barnett said that LSC-funded programs are reporting a dramatic increase in requests for help from low-income Americans because of the recession and the foreclosure crisis. At the same time, she said, the recession has led to budget shortfalls in many states and cutbacks in non-federal funding for legal aid programs. "It is more important than ever that Congress recognize the federal government's responsibility under the LSC Act, reaffirm the nation's bedrock principle of equal justice for all, and increase appropriations for LSC," she said.

For Fiscal 2010, the LSC Board of Directors requests an appropriation of $485.8 million. Of that amount, 95 percent, or $460 million, would be distributed as basic field grants that provide for the delivery of civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and families. The request also includes funding for technology grants, an education loan repayment program to help programs recruit and retain lawyers, and increased funding for Management & Grants Oversight to ensure improved grantee accountability and compliance.

The Obama Administration is recommending that LSC receive $435 million in Fiscal 2010.

For the current fiscal year, Congress provided LSC with an appropriation of $390 million. Of that amount, $365.8 million is for basic field grants.

LSC is the single largest provider of civil legal aid for the poor in the nation. Established by Congress in 1974, LSC operates as a private, nonprofit organization to promote equal access to justice and to provide high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income Americans.