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.”

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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.

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

Media Contact:

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

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

BOSTON, April 13, 2016― The House Ways & Means Committee recommended $18 million for civil legal aid funding in its Fiscal Year 2017 budget issued today, an increase of $1 million over FY16. This recommendation is a positive step in the direction of the $10 million increase in civil legal aid funding sought by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). 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 the full $10 million increase, for a total appropriation of $27 million.

“We appreciate the increase included in the House Ways and Means Committee budget recommendations, and we applaud efforts by House leaders to align public spending with effective, successful programs such as civil legal aid. Our 14 community-based programs across Massachusetts assist low-income people seeking to resolve civil legal issues related to basic necessities such as housing, employment, classroom accommodations for children with disabilities, and conflicts related to domestic violence, child support and custody, and divorce,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of MLAC. “Additionally, civil legal aid yields significant economic returns for our clients and the state.”

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

Successful representation in appeals to Social Security Insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, Medicare coverage, and federal tax decisions resulted in $13.5 million in new federal revenue for the Commonwealth. An additional $9.9 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 $11.6 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.

The request for a $10 million 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 found that more than 60 percent of those eligible for civil legal aid are turned away due to a lack of resources. 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.

Representative Ruth Balser will file an amendment to increase the House Ways & Means recommendation by $9 million, for a total appropriation of $27 million, as the House budget is debated. This funding increase would be an 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 below 125 percent of the federal poverty level, or $584 per week for a family of four.

“Legal aid organizations serve our most vulnerable residents, and we must ensure that these programs have the resources they need,” said Marijane Benner Browne, chair of the MLAC Board of Directors. “Access to legal advice and representation should not be dependent on income. As we move forward, we must do everything we can to make equitable access to justice a reality in the Commonwealth.”

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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.

New Report Shows Civil Legal Aid Generates Millions in New Revenue and Cost Savings for Massachusetts

BOSTON, February 16, 2016 – Massachusetts civil aid programs generated an estimated $35.1 million in new revenue and cost savings for the Commonwealth in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2015, according to a new report by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC).

The state appropriation for MLAC in fiscal year 2015 was $14.7 million, reflecting a 1.79% mid-year cut to the initial appropriation of $15 million.

“Providing relief from the suffering experienced from domestic violence; resolving child custody disputes; retaining housing; or regaining access to improperly denied benefits such as unemployment insurance or Medicaid is reason enough for the Commonwealth to invest in civil legal aid for low income people,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “But this report clearly shows that the state’s investment yields significant economic benefits, and public spending on effective, successful civil legal aid programs not only improves lives, it also provides immediate savings.”

The report is based on data submitted to MLAC by the 14 civil legal aid programs it funds in the Commonwealth.

Key findings include:

• Civil legal aid programs brought at least $13.5 million in new federal dollars to Massachusetts. Specific sources included: $7.4 million increase in federal nutrition assistance benefits (SNAP); $5.2 million from successful representation in federal disability benefits appeals (SSI/SSDI); $182,962 from successful representation in Medicare coverage appeals; and $760,966 for successful representation in federal tax appeals.
• Civil legal aid programs secured $9.9 million in additional financial support for low-income residents, including $3 million in rent relief and moving expenses for tenants in eviction cases; $2.6 million in compensation and debt relief for homeowners and former homeowners in foreclosure cases; $2.2 million in child support orders obtained; and $2.1 million in Unemployment Insurance benefits that were won on appeal.
• Civil legal aid programs saved the Commonwealth $11.6 million, including $7.3 million in avoided shelter and health care costs through preserving housing for low-income residents facing eviction; $2.9 million in avoided medical and mental health care costs through domestic violence prevention; and $1.4 million in foster care costs through obtaining custody orders for unaccompanied immigrant minors.

The full report and a one-page summary are available at: http://mlac.org/resources/research/

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. It is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.mlac.org.

MLAC Statement on Governor Baker’s Budget Recommendation

Media Contact:

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

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Statement on Governor Baker’s Budget Recommendation

BOSTON, January 27, 2016―Today, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker released his FY2017 budget with a recommendation to fund services for civil legal aid in FY2017 at $17,170,000, an increase of $170,000 over FY2016. Currently, more than 60 percent of those eligible for civil legal aid in Massachusetts who seek services are turned away due to lack of resources. 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, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) will continue to advocate for a $10 million increase, for a total appropriation of $27 million.

Tomorrow, Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court and Attorney General Maura Healey will join hundreds of private attorneys from more than 40 law firms at the Massachusetts State House for the 17th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Attendees of this annual lobby day, one of the largest held at the State House each year, will request a $10 million increase in state funding for MLAC, which disburses the state’s civil legal aid funding to 14 civil legal aid programs across the state. With this increased investment, civil legal aid programs can begin to address the shortages in staff and other resources that prevent them from serving eligible clients/residents.

“Civil legal aid is integral to helping low-income people deal with the crises that confront them in everyday life,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of MLAC. “Civil legal aid helps the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents avoid homelessness and unemployment, gain access to health care and veterans’ services, receive a quality education, and escape domestic violence—and does so in a cost-effective manner.”

The request for a $10 million increase in civil legal aid funding is based on a recommendation by the Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts, which issued a report in 2014 that determined civil legal aid is unavailable to the majority of qualified residents who seek it. The report called for an additional state investment of $30 million in civil legal aid in Massachusetts.

The Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts was created by the Boston Bar Association in April 2013 to assess the work of civil legal aid in Massachusetts and determine how best to address unmet civil legal aid needs.

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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. For more information, visit www.mlac.org.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Launches New Website

Media Contact:
Catherine Rizos
617-391-5627
crizos@mlac.org

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Launches New Website

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation invites visitors to connect with resources, program information, and news about civil legal aid

BOSTON, December 17, 2015 – The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth, announced today the launch of its newly redesigned website. The revamped site is easy to navigate, provides a simple web-based referral service, and highlights the work of the legal services programs MLAC supports.

The website boasts a modern design, with a clean layout and visuals that capture the heart of what civil legal aid is about: helping clients. The home page quickly links those looking for legal services for low-income people with local legal aid programs, as well as online resources like the Legal Resource Finder, and MassLegalHelp.org. By providing clear direction on where to find legal services and information, potential clients can more easily find answers to questions about their issue.

While the 14 programs supported by MLAC focus on different regions and issue areas, the programs are tied together by their commitment to an equitable and accessible justice system. The website serves as a space to explore the common threads that connect the programs, and contains a blog and program news section to share updates, success stories, and new ideas about civil legal aid. The site also functions smoothly with social media platforms, allowing ideas to be shared within and beyond the legal services community.

“We are excited about the launch of our new website and the easy access to information about our programs that it provides,” said Lonnie A. Powers, Executive Director of MLAC. “By connecting clients, legal services organizations, and the public with resources on civil legal aid, our new website is just one of the many steps we are taking to move closer to equal justice for all.”

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. For more information, visit http://www.mlac.org.

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Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Board Welcomes Appointment of Three New Members

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Board Welcomes Appointment of Three New Members Bilek, Rafik, and Stone Appointed by Supreme Judicial Court BOSTON, December 1, 2015 – The board of directors of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth, welcomes three new members, Mary Lu Bilek, Mala […]