Increased Funding Will Boost Struggling Legal Aid Providers
BOSTON, June 30, 2014 – The Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives voted today to approve a budget recommendation for fiscal year 2015, which includes an appropriation of $15 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), the Commonwealth’s largest single funding source for civil legal aid to low income families and individuals. This amount represents a much needed $2 million increase over MLAC’s FY14 appropriation.
An increase in MLAC’s state appropriation is critically needed this year due to large declines in other funding sources. The Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts program (IOLTA), traditionally MLAC’s largest revenue source, has provided less than $4 million in FY14, down from a peak of $17 million in FY08. This decline has forced MLAC-funded civil legal aid organizations, which dedicate the vast majority of their budgets to providing direct client service, to lay off attorneys and paralegals, institute furloughs and leave positions unfilled.
Partly as a result of these cuts, the new revenue and cost savings from civil legal aid have also declined. In FY13, with $12 million in appropriated funds, MLAC-funded legal aid organizations brought an estimated $28 million in new revenue and cost savings to the Commonwealth, including $11 million in new federal dollars. That amount is down more than $50 million from FY10.
“On behalf of the Massachusetts civil legal aid community, I thank the legislative leadership and Conference Committee members for funding civil legal aid at $15 million,” said Lonnie Powers, MLAC’s executive director. “They have shown their commitment to keeping families together, strengthening communities and saving money for the Commonwealth through increased access to legal assistance.”
“We urge Governor Patrick to affirm his long-standing commitment to civil legal aid and support funding for MLAC at $15 million as he signs the FY15 budget,” said Powers.