MLAC extends Immigration Legal Assistance Fund

BOSTON, March, 7 — The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation has received funding to extend the Massachusetts Immigration Legal Assistance Fund for an additional two years.

MLAC created MILAF in 2019 with funding from an anonymous donor to respond to persistent unmet legal needs among vulnerable immigrant and refugee populations across the Commonwealth. Recognizing the continued needs of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, the anonymous donor provided resources to extend the program.

“We are very grateful for the continued funding of MILAF, which not only provides crucial legal services to vulnerable individuals, but also helps the organizations it funds build their capacity to provide more representation and community education across the state,” said Lynne Parker, MLAC executive director. “Keeping these established programs operating allows legal aid organizations to seamlessly continue their outreach and service to at-risk people and communities.”

MILAF provides funding to 12 organizations:

Community Legal Aid
Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts
De Novo Center for Justice and Healing
Greater Boston Legal Services
Health Law Advocates
Justice at Work
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Northeast Legal Aid
PAIR Project
Prisoners’ Legal Services
Rian Immigrant Center
South Coastal Counties Legal Services

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About MLAC 

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid organizations in Massachusetts. The Commonwealth established MLAC in 1983 to ensure that low-income people facing critical non-criminal legal issues would have access to legal information, advice, and representation. 

For more info, please visit mlac.org 

On Twitter @CivilLegalAid 

Hundreds of lawyers ‘Talk to the Hill’ seeking more funding for civil legal aid

US Rep. Clark, AG Healey, CJ Budd join call for $41M in FY23

Assistant Speaker to the U.S. House of Representatives Katherine Clark, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd led more than 800 lawyers, law students and advocates at the Talk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid,  urging legislators to fund civil legal aid at $41 million in the FY23 Massachusetts state budget.

The 23rd annual lobby day for civil legal on January 27 was online for the second year due to the pandemic. COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on low-income residents has intensified the need for civil legal services and the need for an additional $6 million in FY23 funding for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, up from $35 million in FY22.

“Until we’ve conquered the coronavirus, we must continue to deal with its impacts on our society—not just medically, but legally, as well,” Chief Justice Budd said. “Just as we strive to provide necessary medical assistance to all who are affected by COVID, so we should strive to provide necessary legal assistance to all who are affected by COVID.”

Assistant Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Katherine Clark

Assistant Speaker Clark said that the pandemic “has exponentially increased the difficulties and traumas facing low-income Americans.” 

“Every day, we rely on legal aid attorneys to take on cases to help protect residents in our communities—representing workers who didn’t get paid what they were owed, preventing families from being foreclosed upon or evicted, helping people navigate the unemployment claims process, working with survivors of domestic violence and that’s just the beginning,” said Attorney General Healey, who has spoken in support of civil legal aid funding for many years.

Attorney General Maura Healey

The annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid, held as Talk to the Hill for the second year, is hosted by the Equal Justice Coalition, a partnership of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association, and MLAC. MBA President Thomas Bond and BBA President Deborah Manus urged their members to speak out for increased funding for civil legal aid.

According to Lynne Parker, MLAC executive director, the legal aid organizations MLAC funds have turned away fewer people from receiving help in the past five years, due to recent increases in the state appropriation. However, more than 50 percent of people are still turned away.

“The network of legal services providers in Massachusetts is considered to be one of the best in the country and is a critical part of the Commonwealth’s social safety net,” Parker said. “We can and we must do better” to fund them.

Louis Tompros, chair of the EJC and a partner at WilmerHale, said that the Massachusetts State Constitution “promises to everyone in the Commonwealth that they will receive equal and equitable justice under law. And it is all of our duty—but particularly all of our duty as lawyers—to make good on that promise.”

‘There’s help out there’

Clients helped by legal aid organizations described how legal aid lawyers fought to keep them safely housed and financially secure during the pandemic.

Carol, civil legal aid client

Carol, who had been permanently disqualified from receiving SNAP benefits under the federal “three strikes rule,” said her troubles were compounded by the loss of her job during the pandemic. A legal aid lawyer with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute successfully argued that the violations barring her from SNAP benefits were invalid and helped get her benefits reinstated in time for Thanksgiving.

“People need to know that there’s help out there and that nobody should be turned away for food,” Carol said.

Ed, civil legal aid client

Ed, an Air Force veteran and former special education teacher, said that an advocate with South Coastal Counties Legal Services had saved him from eviction after he received a notice to quit from his landlord. “I was in very bad shape,” he recalled. “I immediately called legal services.”

Jean, civil legal aid client

Jean, who avoided eviction during the pandemic with the help of MetroWest Legal Services, said, “[My lawyer] was the bridge. She took my hand and said, ‘Let me cross you over.’”

(Watch Ed and Jean speak about their experiences here.)

After hearing the speakers, lawyers and advocates joined breakout rooms in their Senate districts to speak with legislators about their support for MLAC’s civil legal aid budget request.

Tompros urged everyone “as citizens, lawyers, and legislators—to make good on the promise of equal justice for those who need it.”

“To do that,” Tompros said, “we need to serve more people in need. To serve more people in need, we need more legal aid lawyers. And to have more legal aid lawyers, we need more funding for civil legal aid.”

Watch Talk to the Hill here.

Additional Coverage of Talk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid:

MLAC’s response to Governor’s FY23 Budget

BOSTON, January 26, 2022 – Today, Governor Charlie Baker released his FY23 budget with a recommendation to fund civil legal aid at $35 million, the same amount of funding it received in the FY22 budget.

“While we are grateful to Gov. Baker for his commitment to funding civil legal aid during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, which has had such a disproportionate impact on the lives of low-income people in Massachusetts, we will work with Senators and Representatives in the Legislature to improve upon the level-funding recommendation included in the Governor’s Budget today,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “Since the pandemic began, civil legal aid has seen dramatic increases in the need for assistance in cases related to housing, unemployment compensation, family law, income maintenance, bankruptcy, and immigration. Even before the crisis, insufficient funding forced legal aid organizations to turn away the majority of eligible people who sought help. Recent funding increases have enabled civil legal aid organizations to reduce the percent of eligible people turned away to 57 percent, down from 64 percent five years ago.

“To meet these urgent civil legal needs, MLAC is seeking an additional $6 million in funding so more people can have equal access to justice. We will strongly urge the legislature to increase civil legal aid funding to $41 million for FY23.

“Civil legal aid is essential to protecting the safety, financial stability, and wellbeing of our most vulnerable neighbors as we enter a third year of the pandemic.”

Hundreds of lawyers will gather virtually to request increased civil legal aid funding

January 27 lobby day seeks $41M for civil legal aid in FY23

BOSTON, January 20 – Assistant Speaker to the U.S. House of Representatives Katherine Clark, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd, bar association leaders, and legal aid clients will join hundreds of attorneys, law students, and advocates on Thursday, Jan. 27, at 11 a.m. for Talk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. They will urge state legislators to support $41 million in the FY23 state budget for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation to fund organizations that provide legal advice and representation at no cost to low-income Massachusetts residents.

Talk to the Hill is the 23nd annual lobby day advocating for civil legal aid funding in Massachusetts. Held at the Massachusetts State House as Walk to the Hill for decades, the event has moved online due to the pandemic.

Assistant Speaker Clark said, “Civil legal aid has always been an essential service – but never has it been more critical to support the needs of our low-income community members than during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m grateful to the Equal Justice Coalition for their leadership and eager to join ‘Talk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid’ to discuss Congress’ work to ensure that every person in the Commonwealth has access to the legal support services they need.”

Attorney General Healey said, “Legal aid is a lifeline for our most vulnerable neighbors, and it has become even more critical during the pandemic. Many people continue to face serious challenges related to housing, employment, health care, personal safety and other financial and legal issues.  We are grateful to the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation and the Equal Justice Coalition for their continued advocacy for legal aid and for the residents that benefit from it every day.”

“This event is always important,” said Chief Justice Budd, “because it gives us an opportunity to address the challenges faced by people who are too often forgotten in our society – those who cannot afford a lawyer to assist them with their most basic civil legal needs. But it is especially important this year, because of the ongoing problems caused by the pandemic.”

“The need for civil legal aid has intensified during the pandemic, particularly in housing, unemployment, benefits, family law, and immigration,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “Low-income people and particularly low-income people of color are among the groups that have been most severely affected by the pandemic, and civil legal aid is essential to preserving their health, safety, and security.”

After the speaking program, lawyers and advocates will meet in virtual breakout rooms with state legislators about the critical need to increase civil legal aid funding by $6 million, for a total of $41 million in the FY23 state budget.

LIST OF SPEAKERS
– Katherine Clark, Assistant Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives, 5th District of MA
– Attorney General Maura Healey
– Chief Justice Kimberly Budd, Supreme Judicial Court
– Thomas M. Bond, President of the Massachusetts Bar Association
– Deborah J. Manus, President of the Boston Bar Association
– Lynne Parker, Executive Director, Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation
– Jacquelynne J. Bowman, Executive Director, Greater Boston Legal Services
– Legal aid clients who received help during the pandemic will share how legal aid assisted them and their families
– Host: Louis Tompros, Chair, Equal Justice Coalition

Media are welcome to attend the speaking program and the virtual event is open to the public. Please register by January 25 at https://ejctalktothehill.org/

About the EJC
The Equal Justice Coalition is a collaboration of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, Boston Bar Association, and Massachusetts Bar Association working to increase state funding for civil legal aid.

www.equaljusticecoalition.org
@equaljusticema
#IWalkforJustice

Three law firms and UMass Law win awards for legal aid advocacy

EJC recognizes exceptional participation at the Talk to the Hill

The Equal Justice Coalition has recognized three law firms and UMass Law School for their outstanding participation in the 2021 Talk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid.

The award winners are:

Morgan Lewis, winner of the Highest Participation Award

WilmerHale, winner of the Exceptional Support Award

Meehan Boyle, winner of the Nancy King Award

WilmerHale, winner of the Team Advocacy Award

UMass Law, winner of the Highest Participation for a Law School Award

Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid is an annual lobby day for increased funding for civil legal aid organizations through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation line item. Last January, the event was virtual and called “Talk to the Hill.” Nearly 1,000 attorneys and law students participated in the virtual lobby day to ask legislators to increase the state appropriation for civil legal aid. The Commonwealth ultimately included the requested increase of $6 million, appropriating $35 million for civil legal aid in FY22.

This year’s lobby day will be held online January 27, 2022, at 11 a.m. Participants can register online. The speaking program includes U.S. Representative Katherine Clark, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Clients will also share how civil legal aid helped them overcome challenging circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawyers, advocates, and law students will have the opportunity to speak with their legislators to lobby for $41 million in civil legal aid funding in FY23.

“We are so grateful to members of the private bar for their longstanding support for civil legal aid and equal access to justice for all,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “COVID-19 continues to have such a devastating and disproportionate effect on low-income people. Civil legal aid helps to ensure their health, safety, and financial stability during these perilous times.”

About the Award Winners:

Morgan Lewis won the Highest Participation Award, with 80 lawyers from the firm attending the 2021 Walk to the Hill.

WilmerHale received the Exceptional Support Award in recognition of having the second largest group of lawyers attend, with a total of 47 participants.

Meehan Boyle received the Nancy King for bringing the largest percentage of law firm employees to the Talk. The award is named for Nancy King, a longtime legal aid attorney in Boston who passed away in 2007.

WilmerHale earned the Team Advocacy Award, which is given to the law firm that visits the most legislative offices during the Talk to the Hill.

UMass Law received the Highest Participation for a Law School Award, with 26 students at the Dartmouth-based school attending the 2021 Walk to the Hill.

 About the EJC
The Equal Justice Coalition is a collaboration of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, Boston Bar Association, and Massachusetts Bar Association, working to increase state funding for civil legal aid.
www.equaljusticecoalition.org
@equaljusticema
#IWalkforJustice

To reduce serious inequities, ARPA funding should support civil legal assistance

House Amendment supports proposals to boost legal help with healthcare, education, family issues, and housing

BOSTON, October 28 – Funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act present a unique opportunity for Massachusetts to invest in the low-income communities that have suffered the most during the COVID-10 pandemic, especially communities of color that are seeing disproportionate harm to their health, income, and security.

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation seeks ARPA funding to support four proposals that would deliver urgently needed remedies to low-income people across Massachusetts whose lives have been worsened by the pandemic. Each initiative would address structural problems and systemic inequality.

Representatives Ruth Balser and Michael Day have filed amendment 594 to H4219. The ARPA spending bill, to fund these urgent initiatives. It is currently before the Massachusetts House of Representatives, which is considering amendments to its ARPA funding package today.

“These programs go to the heart of what ARPA funding is intended for – repairing longstanding inequities made even worse by the pandemic,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “Through civil legal aid interventions and representation sustainable progress can be made in reducing racial disparities in health and wealth and creating stability in families, education, and housing.”

Advocating for the package of programs included in House Amendment 594, Parker said, “ARPA funds create a unique opportunity to solve intractable problems that the pandemic has only made worse. These legal aid programs would have meaningful and lasting impacts, reducing the gaping racial wealth divide, decreasing health disparities by race and income, and preserving families and safe housing. I urge the House of Representatives to include this funding.”

 

 

 

COVID Eviction Legal Help Project Extended Through December

State provides additional recourses to eligible low-income tenants and landlords

BOSTON, May 5 — The COVID Eviction Legal Help Project (CELHP) has been extended for six months to provide continued support to at-risk, low-income tenants and landlords during the pandemic.

Managed by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, CELHP is part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s Eviction Diversion Initiative, which was created in October 2020 to keep people safely in their homes during the pandemic. Initially structured to extend to the end of Fiscal Year 2021 (June 30), the project will now run until December 31, 2021.

The CELHP project created a statewide legal services delivery system to provide free legal assistance to income-eligible tenants and landlords who are owner-occupants of two- and three-family homes.

“I am very grateful that the CELHP project has been extended,” said Lynne Parker, MLAC executive director. “Even though we are seeing lower infection rates and increasing numbers of vaccinations, low-income people – who have been disproportionately affected throughout the pandemic – are still reeling from loss of income that leaves that at high risk of eviction. With additional time and resources to help the most vulnerable tenants and landlords, more people can achieve housing stability.”

MLAC oversees the delivery of CELHP services through contracts with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, the Volunteer Lawyers Project, and six regional legal aid organizations across the state: Community Legal Aid, De Novo, Greater Boston Legal Services, MetroWest Legal Services, Northeast Legal Aid, and South Coastal Counties Legal Services.

CELHP provides referrals, legal information, assistance, and legal representation in all sittings of the Massachusetts Housing Court, to preserve or achieve housing stability. When possible, it also provides legal assistance in District Courts with high-volume summary process caseloads and to prevent the termination of subsidies prior to court to avert eviction.

To qualify for assistance, people must have an annual household income of less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. For example, a family of four with an annual income of $52,400 would qualify. The project also provides referrals for “low bono” services for low-income owner-occupants with incomes between 200 and 300 percent of the poverty guidelines.

MLAC Praises $6M increase for civil legal aid in House Ways & Means Budget

Impact of pandemic on low-income people heightens urgency of civil legal aid

BOSTON, April 14, 2021 – Today, the House Ways and Means Committee presented its Fiscal Year 2022 budget, including $35 million to fund civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, line item 0321-1600. That is a $6 million increase over FY21.

“We are extremely grateful to House Speaker Ronald Mariano and House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz for their leadership in providing critical increased funding for civil legal aid, an essential service that safeguards vulnerable people at risk of losing their housing, income, benefits, and other necessary protections,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC, noting that the funding increase is an important recognition of the profound impact COVID-19 has had on low-income people in Massachusetts. “COVID-19 has not just threatened the lives and livelihood of the most vulnerable people in our communities. In many cases it has also limited their ability to reach out for civil legal aid protections and use the technology necessary to participate in remote court proceedings. Legal aid organizations have been engaged and innovative in responding to this urgent need,” Parker said.

Parker also thanked members of the House for their support of this increased funding, noting that they have seen firsthand during the pandemic how attorneys in civil legal aid organizations across the state have helped their constituents in crisis.

She praised the Equal Justice Coalition, which has championed the essential work of civil legal aid, including the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association, the Women’s Bar Association, managing partners of many of the state’s largest law firms, and advocates with social services organizations across the Commonwealth.

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MLAC Statement Against Anti-Asian Violence and Discrimination

In the past year, violence against members of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community has moved from the shadows into the public spotlight. In the past weeks, the brutal murders of Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Xiaojie Tan, and Dayou Feng in Atlanta underscore that this violence has intensified; we must recognize that and work to counter it.

We mourn the loss of all the victims of violent attacks and extend our deepest sympathies to their families and communities. We also recognize the pain and fear that racist attacks create in the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, and as an organization committed to justice for everyone we stand in solidarity with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and denounce anti-Asian hate and all forms of oppression and discrimination.

We also recognize the important work in the Massachusetts legal aid community, such as the Asian Outreach Project at Greater Boston Legal Services. We appreciate the essential work of legal aid advocates across the state working to counter inequitable practices and policies. We will continue to support these efforts and partner with community organizations that work to promote justice.

Last year, in response to the senseless deaths of Black and Brown people, MLAC announced its re-commitment to ongoing work to oppose systemic racism and advance racial justice. That work has grown no less urgent. We will work as an organization to counter hate and injustice, and we must work as individuals to counter implicit and explicit bias in ourselves and in our communities. We must also refrain from being passive bystanders when we witness bias and discrimination; instead we must act to counter hate.

We must work together to make Justice for All a reality for everyone.

Lynne Parker
Executive Director

MLAC’s response to Governor’s Budget

Urges legislature to provide $35M for civil legal aid in FY22

BOSTON, January 27, 2021 – Today, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker released his FY22 budget with a recommendation to fund civil legal aid at $29 million, the same amount of funding it received in the FY21 budget.

“I am grateful to Gov. Baker for his commitment to funding civil legal aid and his recognition. of civil legal aid lawyers as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “The public health and economic crisis has had a disproportionate impact on low-income people, who continue to face unprecedented challenges and threats to their safety, financial stability, and wellbeing.

“Even before the pandemic struck, legal aid organizations turned away more people than they could serve, due to lack of financial resources. With the increase in both the amount of demand and the severity of the crises individuals and families are facing, MLAC is seeking an additional $6 million in funding so more people can have equal access to justice. We will work with Senators and Representatives in the Legislature to improve upon the level funding recommendation included in the Governor’s Budget today.

“Civil legal aid is a significant and crucial part of the Commonwealth’s social safety network, especially as we seek to respond to a devastating pandemic year. Funding civil legal is not only necessary and just, it is also a wise investment. Last year, civil legal aid organizations provided an economic benefit to the Commonwealth and its residents of $115 million.

“With the urgent unmet need and the strong return on the Commonwealth’s investment in civil legal aid, we will strongly urge the legislature to increase civil legal aid funding to $35 million for FY22.”