House approves additional $1 million for Civil Legal Aid

With amendment, total appropriation for MLAC rises to $23.5M

BOSTON, April 25, 2019—The Massachusetts House of Representatives yesterday approved an amendment to its fiscal 2020 budget to add an additional $1 million to fund civil legal aid. That increases the funding for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation in the House budget to $23.5 million.

“On behalf of MLAC and legal aid organizations across the Commonwealth that assist low-income people facing serious civil legal issues, I am delighted with the additional funding for civil legal aid,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “With this increased funding, the House has recognized the crucial role civil legal aid plays in promoting access to justice for low-income people.”

The House Ways and Means Committee had recommended a $22.5 million appropriation for MLAC. Rep. Ruth Balser filed an amendment to increase that by an additional $1.5 million. Rep. Balser’s amendment garnered 92 co-sponsors in the House.

Judiciary Chair Claire Cronin spoke in favor of adding $1 million for civil legal aid from the House floor. According to a report from the State House News Service, she said, “We recognize the importance of providing access to justice. This is a smart investment. In FY18, 14 civil legal aid programs provided $60.5 million in economic benefits to the commonwealth. Last year, MLAC programs helped 95,000 individuals with housing, domestic violence and health care issues.”

More information about the economic benefits resulting from civil legal aid are outlined in an MLAC report. The report divides economic benefits into two categories: 1) benefits and savings for low-income Massachusetts residents, which was estimated at $40.25 million; and 2) benefits and savings won for the Commonwealth, estimated to be $20.25 million. In addition, $6.37 million of the money in both categories is derived from federal revenue coming into the Commonwealth.

The Massachusetts Senate is expected to release its budget in early May.

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation line item is 0321-1600.

About MLAC: The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was established by the state legislature in 1983 to ensure that low-income people with critical, non-criminal legal problems would have access to legal information, advice, and representation.