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.”
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.