BOSTON, May 9, 2023 – Today, the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its FY24 budget proposal, which includes $49 million for civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation’s (MLAC) line item 0321-1600.
MLAC is the largest funder for our state’s civil legal aid organizations, which provide free representation, guidance, and resources to people with low incomes who are facing civil legal problems that threaten their access to basic needs. Last year, MLAC-funded organizations helped over 96,000 people across Massachusetts secure safety, shelter, and economic stability. Civil legal aid attorneys handle a wide range of non-criminal cases, including eviction and housing instability, consumer fraud, domestic protection orders, employment and wage theft, access to equitable education services, and more.
MLAC Executive Director Lynne Parker expressed her appreciation for the Committee’s FY24 investment in civil legal aid, saying, “The Senate’s investment will make a difference in the lives of individuals and families struggling to make ends meet. Our state’s most vulnerable residents cannot fathom hiring an attorney when they are faced with a civil legal crisis. Challenges such as unjust evictions, consumer fraud, and domestic violence can all be addressed in our civil justice system – but without representation, the odds are stacked against people who are living in poverty.”
MLAC requested $49 million to fund civil legal aid organizations in the FY24 budget. By supporting our request in full, the Massachusetts Senate is committing essential resources that will strengthen our state’s civil legal aid organizations and allow them to help more people and families in their times of greatest need.”
To qualify for legal services funded through the MLAC line item, people and families must have incomes at or below 125% of the federal poverty level ($37,500 per year for a family of four; $18,225 for an individual).
Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) has long championed the cause of civil legal aid. “Massachusetts is proud of its reputation as a state where we take care of each other and promote equal opportunity for all, regardless of income. Your income should not predict whether you can stay in your home or maintain your health care or employment. Our state’s civil legal aid organizations play a major role in keeping our promise to residents by providing representation that is essential to maintain their most basic necessities of life.”
Senate Judiciary Chair Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) has been a staunch advocate and leader for civil legal aid throughout his career in public service. “I am continuously impressed by the way our state’s legal aid organizations innovate year after year to address urgent and ever-changing needs in their communities. During COVID-19, they adapted and remained accessible even in the most difficult of circumstances. The FY24 investment goes a long way towards ensuring our civil legal aid organizations across the Commonwealth will continue to serve as a lifeline for some of our most vulnerable residents facing a legal crisis.
“On behalf of MLAC, I thank the Massachusetts Senate for fully funding civil legal aid services in the FY24Ways and Means budget,” says Parker. “It is an essential and important step towards strengthening and supporting our state’s people, neighborhoods, and communities as we continue to collectively recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic.”