Doing our part to stop Asian hate

An op-ed in The Greenfield Recorder by Nghia Trinh, staff attorney for the Harry H. Dow Asian Outreach & Advocacy Project of Community Legal Aid.

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month is observed annually in the month of May to celebrate the culture and diversity of Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. 2021 is a particularly profound year for the AAPI community, given all that has happened since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. The surge in anti-AAPI hate crimes across the globe has been alarming, but even more disturbing are the unreported offenses that AAPI community members endure in silence. Most readers may be unaware that some of your AAPI neighbors face harmful discrimination and bigotry on a regular basis. Read more in The Greenfield Recorder.

For Legislators: A Guide to CELHP

On December 21, legislators gathered virtually for a briefing on the COVID Eviction Legal Help Project, which provides urgently needed legal assistance in pandemic-related eviction cases.

The CELH Project expands the capacity of existing legal aid organizations to provide essential help to income-eligible tenants facing eviction due to COVID-19 and to landlords who are income-eligible owner-occupants of two- and three-family homes.

The PowerPoint presentation below walks legislators, their staff, and anyone interested in learning how to prevent evictions, through the new program, which is administered by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. The Project also has a new website.

Pro bono legal service integral to Worcester lawyers’ work

…Recent recognition of Worcester-area lawyers spotlights an often-overlooked contribution these professionals make: taking time away from their billable hours for clients who may pay them handsomely, to donate pro bono, or uncompensated, legal services to persons of limited means or to nonprofit charitable organizations…Bowditch & Dewey LLP was nationally recognized by the ABA at a summit outside Washington, D.C. last month, with its ABA Outstanding Medical-Legal Partnership Pro Bono Advocacy Award.  The award celebrates Bowditch’s years of pro bono commitment to “meeting the health-harming needs of low-income families in Central Massachusetts, including through the Community Legal Aid Medical-Legal Partnership with UMass Memorial Medical Center”…Kate Gannon, a staff attorney for the CLA medical-legal partnership, said Bowditch & Dewey was particularly dedicated to “providing holistic upstream advocacy,” in other words addressing issues before they became big legal problems for clients, and to recruiting other attorneys and participating in training on the different challenges CLA clients face. Read more in the Telegram & Gazette.

MLAC Urges Governor Baker to Protect Funding for Civil Legal Aid

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.”

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. Statement on Gov. Baker’s Budget Recommendation

BOSTON, January 25, 2017―Today, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker released his FY2018 budget with a recommendation to fund civil legal aid at $18,180,000 in FY2018. This is a one percent increase over the amount that civil legal aid was funded in FY2017.

We are pleased that Gov. Baker recognizes the role that civil legal aid funding plays in promoting equal access to justice for low-income residents of the Commonwealth. We are grateful for his support, particularly when proposals have been put forward in Washington DC that would eliminate the Legal Services Corporation, which provides funding to civil legal aid organizations in every state including Massachusetts.

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 $5 million increase, for a total appropriation of $23 million.

Tomorrow, Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court, Boston Bar Association President Carol A. Starkey, and Massachusetts Bar Association President Jeffrey N. Catalano will join hundreds of private attorneys from more than 40 law firms at the Massachusetts State House for the 18th 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 $5 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.

“Civil legal aid is a key part of efforts to provide justice in Massachusetts. It 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,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). “State investment in civil legal aid is critical to the success of these efforts, and with a return of between $2.50 and $5 for every dollar the Commonwealth spends, it is a smart investment.”

The request for a $5 million increase in civil legal aid funding is based on a recommendation by the Boston Bar Association Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts, whose research determined civil legal aid is unavailable to the majority of qualified residents who seek it. The Task Force’s report, issued in 2014, demonstrated that civil legal aid programs are forced to turn away 64% of the income-eligible residents (at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Level, or $30,375 a year for a family of four) who request help with a legal problem for which legal aid could provide assistance.

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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.

Workers at Bar-Way Farm in Deerfield sue owner Stephen Melnik for alleged violations and providing inadequate housing (Gazettenet)