MLAC receives revenue from several sources:
- The Commonwealth of Massachusetts appropriates money in its state budget to MLAC, which MLAC distributes to qualified civil legal aid organizations. In Fiscal Year 2023, the state appropriation is $41 million.
- MLAC receives 67% of the revenue generated by the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program. Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts, or “IOLTA”, is a program mandated by the Supreme Judicial Court. It requires lawyers and law firms to establish interest-bearing accounts for client deposits which are nominal in amount or large amounts held for a short period of time.
- MLAC receives grants from government agencies and private foundations seeking to fund special initiatives in response to emerging crises. For example, MLAC received grants for initiatives to provide legal defense to homeowners in the midst of the foreclosure crisis, legal services to immigrants facing deportation, and to address the civil legal needs of victims of crime.
About Civil Legal Aid
Unlike criminal defendants, people facing serious civil legal problems—such as domestic violence, housing, health care, employment, government benefits, bankruptcy, and elder issues—do not have the right to an attorney in most cases. Legal aid organizations provide essential representation and advice to help people who cannot afford an attorney protect their basic human needs for health, safety, and housing.
People with incomes at or below 125% of the federal poverty level are eligible for civil legal aid. According to the 2023 federal poverty guidelines, that means an annual income at or below $37,500 for a family of four.
This year, MLAC is asking the Massachusetts legislature to provide $49 million for civil legal aid in the FY24 Budget of the Commonwealth through line item 0321-1600.
My legal aid attorney was heaven-sent.