Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. Backs Amendment to Increase Funding for Civil Legal Aid

Media contact:
Michelle Deakin

Rep. Ruth Balser files amendment to House Ways & Means budget for $1.5M funding increase

BOSTON, April 12, 2019—Massachusetts Rep. Ruth Balser has filed an amendment to increase civil legal aid funding by $1.5 million, for total funding of $24 million in the House budget.

The House Ways and Means budget recommendation includes $22.5 million in funding for civil legal aid. That’s an increase of $1.5 million over FY19, but falls short of the $26 million in civil legal aid funding requested by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) for FY20.

“Civil legal aid lawyers represent the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable people in times of extraordinary crises, such as when they are seeking to retain their housing, protection from domestic violence, or access to medical treatment,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “I’m grateful that the House Ways and Means Committee recognized the crucial role civil legal aid plays in promoting equal access to justice for low-income people by providing a $1.5 million increase in funding. However, given the sizable unmet need for civil legal services, we support Rep. Balser’s amendment to seek additional funding to serve more people in need.”

Due to lack of funding, legal aid organizations in Massachusetts are forced to turn away the majority of eligible residents who seek help each year. Eligible residents are those with incomes at or below 125 percent of the poverty level, or $32,188 per year for a family of four.

Civil legal aid organizations funded by MLAC closed more than 22,000 cases in FY18, benefitting more than 95,000 clients and their family members. These cases also produced more than $60 million in economic benefits for the Commonwealth and its residents. These benefits were the direct result of civil legal services that helped to: reduce evictions and prevent homelessness; recover and secure public benefits; and gain employment authorization for immigrants, in addition to other benefits. (Read more about the report here.)

“When a person’s most basic needs are at risk, access to legal advice and representation is essential,” Parker said. “We applaud Rep. Balser’s amendment and urge other representatives to join her to help assure equal access to justice for all people.”
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.

Massachusetts State House

Chief Justice Gants, Bar Leaders Rally Jan. 24 for Civil Legal Aid Funding Increase

At 20th annual Walk to the Hill, hundreds of attorneys to advocate for $26M for Civil Legal Aid

BOSTON (January 17, 2019) – Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, bar association leaders, and law students will join hundreds of private attorneys from more than 36 law firms at the Massachusetts State House on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 11 a.m. for the 20th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Attendees at this annual lobby day will request a $5 million increase in state funding for programs that provide civil legal aid to low-income Massachusetts residents.

“Families torn apart by opiate abuse, immigrant residents threatened with deportation and family separation, elderly tenants facing eviction, survivors of domestic violence searching for a safe space and a fresh start: these are among the hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents seeking civil legal aid from providers funded by MLAC. And they need our help, never more than now,” said Chief Justice Gants.

In addition to Chief Justice Gants, speakers at the Walk to the Hill will include: Jonathan Albano, president of the Boston Bar Association; Christopher Kenney, president of the Massachusetts Bar Association; and Fred Connelly, a legal aid client.

“As the overall economy has improved, many people served by legal aid are facing greater need,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “Increased housing costs can push low-income tenants out of their homes and further away from their jobs. Legal aid helps many people stay in affordable housing and avoid homelessness by providing free legal advice and representation to vulnerable individuals who cannot afford to hire a private attorney.”

Following the speaking program, attorneys will visit their legislators and urge them to provide a $5 million increase in funding for MLAC, the largest funder of civil legal in Massachusetts, for a total appropriation of $26 million in the FY 20 state budget.

Walk to the Hill is sponsored by the Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. The event is co-sponsored by numerous county and specialty bar associations throughout Massachusetts.

11:30 to 12:10 pm
Great Hall of Flags
Massachusetts State House, Boston

The order of speakers is:
• Louis Tompros, Chair, Equal Justice Coalition
• Lynne Parker, Executive Director, Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation
• Chief Justice Ralph Gants, Supreme Judicial Court
• Jonathan Albano, President, Boston Bar Association
• Christopher Kenney, President, Massachusetts Bar Association
• Fred Connelly, Legal aid client
• Jacquelynne Bowman, Executive Director, Greater Boston Legal Services

Media are welcome to attend the speaking program.

About the EJC
The Equal Justice Coalition is a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation working to increase state funding for civil legal aid.

Media contact:
Michelle Deakin

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