MLAC Thanks Governor for Preserving Civil Legal Aid Funds in FY18 Budget

BOSTON, July 18, 2017 – The FY18 Budget of the Commonwealth, signed yesterday by Governor Baker, includes level funding for civil legal aid at $18 million. Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, offered the following statement in response:

“We appreciate Governor Baker’s recognition that civil legal aid is a vital resource for our state’s low-income individuals and families. The 14 programs across the state funded by the civil legal aid line item support our state’s most vulnerable residents as they face serious civil legal issues related to domestic violence, health care, elder abuse, housing, employment, and the rights of disabled children and adults.

“We remain committed to working for equal justice for all in the Commonwealth, and will continue our efforts to protect and increase needed funding for civil legal aid. In addition to the governor and his staff, we offer thanks to the many individuals and groups that work with us including our legislative champions, the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association, county and specialty bar associations, our social services endorsers, and the many people across the state who spoke in support of civil legal aid funding.”

###

About MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts.

MLAC Urges Governor Baker to Protect Funding for Civil Legal Aid

BOSTON, July 7, 2017 – Today, the legislature’s conference committee released its compromise budget for Fiscal Year 2018, including level funding for civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), at $18 million. This amount falls far short of the increase requested by MLAC and eliminates the increases in funding approved in the House and Senate Budgets, which both included a $2 million funding increase for civil legal aid.

MLAC disburses the state’s civil legal aid funding to 14 civil legal aid programs across Massachusetts that assist low-income individuals and families in resolving issues related to basic necessities such as housing, employment, classroom accommodations for children with disabilities, and conflicts related to child support and custody, divorce, and domestic violence. Eligible residents are those with incomes below 125 percent of the federal poverty level, or an annual income of $30,750 for a family of four. Civil legal aid programs currently turn away an estimated 57,000 eligible people annually due to lack of funding. MLAC will continue to ask the legislature to increase the state appropriation for legal aid, as it is a sound economic investment and a lifeline for those who need civil legal services.

“We are clearly disappointed by the conference committee budget, and we will continue our efforts to protect funding for civil legal aid, which provides vital legal advice and representation to low-income individuals and families across the Commonwealth,” said Lonnie Powers, MLAC Executive Director. “We remain committed to meeting the needs of low-income residents who need access to civil legal services, and we urge Governor Baker to approve $18 million in funding for civil legal aid when he signs the FY18 Budget.”

About MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts.

MLAC Praises Senate for Including Additional Funding for Civil Legal Aid in FY18 Budget

MLAC Praises Senate for Including Additional Funding for Civil Legal Aid in FY18 Budget

BOSTON, May 25, 2017 – The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) expresses its gratitude to the State Senate for approving $20 million in funding for civil legal aid in its FY18 Budget passed today. This additional funding was possible thanks to bi-partisan support for amendment #896, co-sponsored by 21 senators, which added an additional $2 million to the initial Senate Ways & Means budget proposal. The Senate appropriation, an increase of $2 million over FY17, represents an important step forward in the Commonwealth’s efforts to increase access to legal representation for low-income individuals and families facing potentially life-altering civil legal issues related to housing, health care, employment, and domestic violence, among others.

“We know our Senators had difficult decisions to make in the budget process, and we applaud them for recognizing the importance of civil legal aid in protecting the safety and stability of low-income residents of the Commonwealth,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of MLAC. “We would like to extend special thanks to Senate President Rosenberg, Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Karen Spilka, and Vice Chair Sal DiDomenico for their leadership on this issue, and to amendment co-sponsors Senator Cynthia Creem and Senator William Brownsberger for their longstanding efforts to improve access to justice for our state’s most vulnerable residents.”

###

ABOUT MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. Will Request Additional Funding From Senate

BOSTON, May 16, 2017―Today, the Senate Ways & Means Committee recommended funding civil legal aid in the Commonwealth at the same level as last year—$18 million. Given the depth of unmet need for civil legal aid services among people living in poverty, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) will continue to advocate for an additional $2 million in funding by the Senate.

“Right now, civil legal aid programs around the state turn away approximately 57,000 people eligible for legal aid each year. Access to justice should not depend on your income. The potential loss of federal funds for civil legal aid and other social safety net programs suggests this disparity will only increase. Given the significant economic returns for the state generated by civil legal aid, this is an investment that the state should be making,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). “Public monies should be spent on programs that are effective and efficient, and civil legal aid is both.”

Senator Cynthia Creem and Senator William Brownsberger will file an amendment to increase the Senate Ways & Means recommendation by $2 million, for a total appropriation of $20 million, as the Senate budget is debated. This funding increase would be another important step in addressing the significant unmet need among those who are eligible for, and seek, civil legal aid. Eligible residents are those with incomes at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level, or $30,750 annually for a family of four.

“Our programs around the state ensure that people living in poverty get the legal help they need when faced with life-changing legal issues related to housing, employment, access to health care, education and others.” Powers added. “Unfortunately, without this increase in funding, legal aid programs will be forced to continue to turn away many people eligible for assistance with civil legal issues that threaten their safety and stability.”

Earlier this year, MLAC released its annual Economic Benefits Report, which showed that civil legal assistance provided by MLAC-funded programs in fiscal year 2016 yielded at least $49.3 million in savings or new revenue for the state and its residents. Successful representation in appeals to Social Security Insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, Medicare coverage, and federal tax decisions resulted in $15.8 million in new federal revenue for the Commonwealth. An additional $21.2 million was gained through child support orders, debt relief for homeowners in foreclosure cases, and additional non-federal Unemployment Insurance claims and representation for tenants. The state saved $12.1 million in services that it would have otherwise provided if not for civil legal aid. These services include emergency shelter, foster care, and medical costs related to domestic violence.

“Legal aid organizations serve our most vulnerable residents by helping them avoid homelessness and unemployment, gain access to health care and veterans’ services, receive a quality education, and escape domestic violence. Access to legal advice and representation should not be dependent on income, and we must ensure that these programs have the resources they need,” said Marijane Benner Browne, chair of the MLAC Board of Directors. “

###

ABOUT MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. Thanks House Ways & Means Committee for Budget Recommendation for Civil Legal Aid

BOSTON, April 12, 2017―On Monday, the House Ways & Means Committee recommended $19.5 million for civil legal aid funding in its Fiscal Year 2018 budget. This is a $1.5 million increase over FY17.

“We’re incredibly pleased that the House Ways & Means Committee recognizes the role that civil legal aid funding plays in promoting equal access to justice for low-income residents of the Commonwealth, and we’re very grateful for this support,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). “We’re particularly gratified that House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Brian Dempsey highlighted the Committee’s commitment to ‘protecting and providing for our Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents’ in his letter to the Commonwealth explaining the House Ways & Means Committee’s budget by noting that the proposed increase will allow civil legal aid programs around the state to take on additional cases.”

Representative Ruth Balser will file an amendment to increase the House Ways & Means recommendation by $1.5 million, for a total appropriation of $21 million, as the House budget is debated. This funding increase would be another important step in addressing the significant unmet need among those who are eligible for and seek civil legal aid. Eligible residents are those with incomes at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level, or $591 per week for a family of four.

“Given the great depth of unmet need among those seeking civil legal aid, and the significant return on investment yielded by civil legal aid funding, we’ll continue to advocate for increased investment by the state,” Powers added. “Our funding request is particularly urgent when proposals have been put forward in Washington, DC that would eliminate the Legal Services Corporation, which provides funding to civil legal aid organizations throughout the country, including several in Massachusetts.”

Earlier this year, MLAC released its annual Economic Benefits Report, which showed that civil legal assistance provided by MLAC-funded programs in fiscal year 2016 yielded at least $49.3 million in savings or new revenue for the state and its residents. Successful representation in appeals to Social Security Insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, Medicare coverage, and federal tax decisions resulted in $15.8 million in new federal revenue for the Commonwealth. An additional $21.2 million was gained through child support orders, debt relief for homeowners in foreclosure cases, and additional non-federal Unemployment Insurance claims and representation for tenants. The state saved $12.1 million in services that it would have otherwise provided if not for civil legal aid. These services include emergency shelter, foster care, and medical costs related to domestic violence.

“Legal aid organizations serve our most vulnerable residents by helping them avoid homelessness and unemployment, gain access to health care and veterans’ services, receive a quality education, and escape domestic violence. Access to legal advice and representation should not be dependent on income, and we must ensure that these programs have the resources they need,” said Marijane Benner Browne, chair of the MLAC Board of Directors. “Additionally, this work yields significant economic returns for the state. This is an investment that the state should be making.”

###

ABOUT MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Statement on Proposed Cuts to Federal Legal Aid Funding

BOSTON, March 16, 2017—The proposed budget by President Donald Trump, released this morning by the White House Office of Management and Budget, would eliminate funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and several other federal programs that provide vital safety net services to low-income people here in Massachusetts and across the United States. Lonnie Powers, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation offered the following statement in response:

“LSC distributes grants to civil legal aid organizations that provide legal advice and representation to low-income individuals facing serious civil legal problems related to housing, employment, domestic violence, health care, and education, among other issues. The elimination of funding for LSC, coupled with cuts to other programs that help poor and elderly residents secure food and water, heat, housing, employment, economic opportunity, and safe workplaces, would have devastating and long-lasting consequences on the stability of individuals, families, and communities across our state and our country. The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation remains dedicated to the promise of equal justice for all, and will continue to support legal aid programs across the Commonwealth as they work to provide much-needed civil legal services to our state’s most vulnerable residents.”

###

ABOUT MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Board of Directors Welcomes Two New Members

McIntyre, Vitale Appointed by Supreme Judicial Court

BOSTON, December 22, 2016 – The board of directors of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), the Commonwealth’s primary funding source for civil legal aid, is pleased to welcome two new members, Edward W. McIntyre and Richard L. Vitali, who were recently appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court.

Edward W. McIntyre is the Mediator-Arbitrator of McIntyre Mediation, where he has focused on alternative dispute resolution since 2008. He is also a sole practitioner with decades of experience in civil litigation, specifically cases involving serious and life-altering injuries. He is a current member of the Massachusetts Trial Court Department’s Standing Committee on Alternative Dispute Resolution, and a former President of the Massachusetts Bar Association. He served as an officer in the US Army and is a Vietnam combat veteran.

Richard L. Vitali is a private attorney whose practice includes civil litigation, real estate, housing, domestic relations, and criminal law. He has also served as Assistant City Solicitor for the city of Lynn since 1990. From 2011 to 2014 he was President of the Board of Directors of Neighborhood Legal Services. Following program reorganization in 2014, he became vice-president of the board of Northeast Legal Aid, an MLAC-funded program. He is the President of the grassroots consulting firm Business & Industry Advocacy Group, and is a former trustee of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

MLAC is governed by an 11-member Board of Directors. Ten are appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court, and the 11th is the Chief Justice for Administration and Management of the Trial Court or that Justice’s designee.

 

ABOUT MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation was established by the Commonwealth in 1983 to ensure that low-income people with critical, non-criminal legal problems would have access to legal information, advice and representation.

MLAC Thanks Gov. Baker & Legislature for Supporting Civil Legal Aid Funding

Statement by Lonnie A. Powers, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) on the final Fiscal Year 2017 Budget of the Commonwealth

BOSTON, July 12, 2016 — “We are deeply grateful to Governor Baker and the legislature for providing $18 million in funding for civil legal aid in the final Fiscal Year 2017 Budget of the Commonwealth. This $1 million increase over last year’s funding for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation will help more low-income residents facing homelessness, domestic violence, access to health care, and other serious legal issues get the assistance they urgently need. These programs help our Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents, people at or below 125% of the federal poverty level, or $30,375 a year for a family of four. In the midst of a difficult budget year, the Governor and the legislature have shown leadership by investing in a program that strengthens the social and economic well-being of the Commonwealth. For every dollar invested in civil legal aid, between $2 and $5 is returned to the state and its residents in cost-savings and federal benefits. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the Governor and the legislature to address the widespread unmet need for civil legal aid throughout the Commonwealth. “

“We also thank our supporters in the private bar, including our partners at the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Boston Bar Association, as well as county bar associations around the state; our social services endorsers; and the many advocates across the state who spoke up in support of this vital increase.”

About MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts.

MLAC Urges State Senate to Increase Investment in Civil Legal Aid

Media Contact:

Catherine Rizos
617-391-5627
crizos@mlac.org

MLAC Urges State Senate to Increase Investment in Civil Legal Aid

BOSTON, May 17, 2016 – The Senate Ways & Means Committee recommended level funding of $17 million for civil legal aid in its Fiscal Year 2017 budget issued today. The Senate’s recommendation is significantly less than what the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) requested, and falls short of what is needed to address the profound gap in access to civil legal aid that exists for low-income individuals and families in the Commonwealth. Given the great depth of unmet need among those seeking civil legal aid, and the significant return on investment yielded by civil legal aid funding, MLAC will continue to advocate for an increase in civil legal aid funding during the Senate budget debate next week.

“Civil legal aid is a practical and proven solution, both social and fiscal, to the Commonwealth’s most challenging problems and it strengthens the resilience of families in need and the communities in which they live. It gives thousands of low-income residents, including children, access to legal help as families seek to stay in their homes when faced with illegal foreclosure or eviction. It helps victims of intimate partner violence and their children stabilize their lives and escape danger. It helps in overcoming barriers to employment, education, or quality health care,” said Lonnie Powers, MLAC Executive Director. “We work in close partnership with other community-based social service programs across the state. Ultimately, this work improves lives, strengthens communities, and saves taxpayer dollars.”

MLAC disburses the state’s civil legal aid funding to 14 civil legal aid programs across Massachusetts that assist low-income individuals and families in resolving issues related to basic necessities such as housing, employment, classroom accommodations for children with disabilities, and conflicts related to child support and custody, divorce, and domestic violence. Eligible residents are those with incomes below 125 percent of the federal poverty level, or an annual income of $30,368 for a family of four.

This past February, MLAC released its annual Economic Benefits Report, which documented that services provided by MLAC-funded programs in fiscal year 2015 yielded at least $35.1 million in savings or new revenue for the state.

State Senators Cynthia Creem and Will Brownsberger will file an amendment to increase legal aid funding by $3 million. This additional funding is needed to begin addressing the significant unmet need among those who are eligible for and seek civil legal aid.

Currently, due to lack of funding, civil legal aid programs are forced to turn away more than 60 percent of those eligible for civil legal aid in Massachusetts who seek services.

The request for the increase in civil legal aid funding is based on a recommendation by the Boston Bar Association’s Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts, which issued a report in 2014 that clearly demonstrated the lack of access to legal representation faced by low-income residents of our state. The report called for an additional state investment of $30 million in civil legal aid in Massachusetts, to be implemented in $10 million increments over three years.

“Everyone, regardless of income, should have equitable access to our justice system. Unfortunately, that is not the case in our courts today,” said Marijane Benner Browne, chair of the MLAC Board of Directors. “No one should be forced to fight an illegal foreclosure without an attorney. The complexity of legal issues related to overturning improperly denied access to health care and education requires assistance from an attorney. As we move forward, we must ensure that legal aid organizations across the Commonwealth have the resources they need to serve our most vulnerable residents.”

About MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts.