The following letter to the editor was published by the Lowell Sun.
As state lawmakers construct a balanced budget that meets all of our needs, they should consider an increase in state funding for civil legal aid.
In fiscal year 2017 the work of civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts, including Northeast Legal Aid, which serves Lynn, Lowell and Lawrence, provided an economic benefit of $59.2 million to the state’s economy. By providing free legal representation in noncriminal legal matters to low-income people, the state received increased federal benefits and helped residents avoid unlawful evictions and foreclosures, or secure healthcare services to which they were rightfully entitled. Simply put, it’s cheaper for the commonwealth to help prevent a family from becoming homeless than it is to pay to shelter them after the fact. Likewise, it’s more cost effective to ensure that a military veteran receives the healthcare services he or she needs rather than have that person seek more costly emergency room care with no way to pay for it.
Those who qualify for civil legal aid are some of the most vulnerable among us — an individual scraping by on little more than $15,000 per year, or a family of four living on an annual income of about $32,000. Civil legal aid is a proven, cost-effective way to help people from becoming further mired in financial instability and thus dependent on state services.
I urge our legislators to increase support for civil legal aid.
James P. Hall, Esq.
Northeast Legal Aid, Inc.