BOSTON, January 24, 2018―Today, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker released his FY2019 budget with a recommendation to fund civil legal aid at $18.18 million, an increase of $180,000 over FY2018. Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Executive Director Lonnie Powers released the following statement:
“We are pleased with Gov. Baker’s recognition of the role civil legal aid funding plays in promoting equal access to justice for low-income residents of the Commonwealth. Through civil legal assistance, some of 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. Currently, civil legal aid programs around the state turn away approximately 65 percent of eligible residents who seek services—nearly 45,000 people each year. To be eligible for civil legal aid, applicants must have incomes at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Level, which is $31,375 a year for a family of four.
“The return on the state’s investment in civil legal assistance is high. In fiscal year 2016, new revenue for legal aid clients and cost savings to the Commonwealth from legal aid work totaled an estimated $49.2 million, of which $15.9 million was in the form of new federal revenue.
“Given the depth of this unmet need among those seeking civil legal aid, and the significant return on investment yielded by civil legal aid funding, we will continue to advocate with the Legislature for a $5 million increase, for a total appropriation of $23 million.
“Tomorrow, Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court, Boston Bar Association President Mark D. Smith, and Massachusetts Bar Association President Christopher P. Sullivan will join hundreds of private attorneys from more than 50 law firms at the State House for the 19th 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 meet with lawmakers and their staff to request increased public investment in civil legal aid.”
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.