BOSTON, April 12, 2023 – Earlier today, the Massachusetts House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee released its FY24 budget proposal, which includes $49 million for civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation’s (MLAC) line item 0321-1600.
MLAC Executive Director Lynne Parker says that by fully funding MLAC’s request, Massachusetts State Representatives demonstrated their understanding of legal aid’s critical role supporting our most vulnerable neighbors across the Commonwealth.
“MLAC is grateful to our state representatives for supporting civil legal aid, which serves as a lifeline for Massachusetts residents in crisis,” says Parker. “Over the years, their critical investments in MLAC have enabled attorneys, paralegals, and other legal aid staff to help tens of thousands of people secure essential basic needs including housing, health care and employment security.”
In order to receive legal services funded through the MLAC line-item, people and families with incomes at or below 125% of the federal poverty level ($37,500 per year for a family of four; $18,225 for an individual) qualify for civil legal aid.
“We thank Speaker Ron Mariano, Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz, and Ways and Means Vice Chair Ann-Margaret Ferrante for their commitment to MLAC and civil legal aid. We also thank Division Chair Ruth Balser, House Judiciary Chair Michael Day, and House members who supported the FY24 increase. This investment is greatly appreciated and impactful.”
Civil legal aid organizations deliver a unique, essential service: they provide no-cost representation to income-eligible clients on a wide variety of non-criminal cases, including consumer issues, domestic protection orders, educational services, wage theft, and more. In FY22, Massachusetts legal aid organizations handled nearly 43,000 cases.
MLAC’s line item in the state budget is the largest funding source for Massachusetts civil legal aid organizations.
Representative Ruth B. Balser (D-Newton), a longtime supporter and advocate for civil legal aid, recognizes that our state’s legal aid organizations are a critical component of our state’s safety net. “With $49 million in FY24, civil legal aid organizations will bolster their capacity to deliver necessary services to more eligible residents and expand their impact through partnerships and systemic advocacy,” she says. “I am proud that the House continues to show its commitment to ensuring that low-income residents of the Commonwealth will have equal access to justice.”
“This budget continues the welcome trend of making substantial increases in state funding to MLAC, which means that Massachusetts has been able to provide legal aid to significantly more individuals who would have otherwise been denied representation simply because of their lack of financial resources,” said Representative Michael S. Day (D-Stoneham). “This FY24 funding will help legal aid organizations continue to help more of our neighbors in need.”
The Massachusetts Senate is expected to release its budget in May.