Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Statement on Governor Baker’s Budget Recommendation
BOSTON, January 27, 2016―Today, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker released his FY2017 budget with a recommendation to fund services for civil legal aid in FY2017 at $17,170,000, an increase of $170,000 over FY2016. Currently, more than 60 percent of those eligible for civil legal aid in Massachusetts who seek services are turned away due to lack of resources. 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 $10 million increase, for a total appropriation of $27 million.
Tomorrow, Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court and Attorney General Maura Healey will join hundreds of private attorneys from more than 40 law firms at the Massachusetts State House for the 17th 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 $10 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. With this increased investment, civil legal aid programs can begin to address the shortages in staff and other resources that prevent them from serving eligible clients/residents.
“Civil legal aid is integral to helping low-income people deal with the crises that confront them in everyday life,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of MLAC. “Civil legal aid 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—and does so in a cost-effective manner.”
The request for a $10 million increase in civil legal aid funding is based on a recommendation by the Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts, which issued a report in 2014 that determined civil legal aid is unavailable to the majority of qualified residents who seek it. The report called for an additional state investment of $30 million in civil legal aid in Massachusetts.
The Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts was created by the Boston Bar Association in April 2013 to assess the work of civil legal aid in Massachusetts and determine how best to address unmet civil legal aid needs.
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.