Below is an excerpt from a February 28 article, published by MetroWest Daily News, describing funding difficulties at MetroWest Legal Services (MWLS) and other legal aid organizations in Massachusetts. Elizabeth Soule, Executive Director of MWLS, is quoted.
Sequestration’s potential cuts to MetroWest Legal Services’ budget won’t bowl over most people, especially compared to the rest of the $1.2 trillion deficit reduction package.
But according to Executive Director Elizabeth Soule, even a small hit is too much for the legal advocacy office and others like it around the state, which provide free legal help to the poor, elderly and disabled. Several are already running on deficit budgets thanks to diminished funding over the past few years, and have had to cut their services as well.
“It’s just another chink in the armor,” said Soule, who reported one of her office’s funding agencies on Thursday told her to expect a roughly 7 percent cut to its federal dollars should sequestration go through today.
If that rate were extended to the rest of the Framingham-based office’s federal funding, it would amount to a loss of approximately $16,000, she said – likely not enough to have to let a staff member go, but enough to force a slight reduction in services.
At Greater Boston Legal Services, Finance and Development Director Jack Ward said he was still unsure of what to expect from sequestration as of Thursday, but like Soule worried about having to absorb any more cuts.
“We’ve had a huge reduction in our other income,” he said, which has led the Boston-based office, which relies on federal funding for about 10 percent or $1.4 million of its budget, to eliminate 24 positions over the past few years.
The steep reductions to funding sources like the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts program, whose contribution to MetroWest Legal Services has fallen about $200,000 over the last four years, couldn’t come at a worse time, as demand for legal help continues to increase. In Metrowest, the recent recession added thousands of new people into the ranks of those eligible for services, Soule said, which has forced her office to make some tough choices.