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MLAC Backs Amendment to Increase Civil Legal Aid Funding in House Budget

BOSTON, April 15, 2022 – On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee presented its Fiscal Year 2023 budget, including $39.5 million to fund civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, line item 0321-1600—a $4.5 million increase over FY22. This amount falls short of the $41 million recommended by MLAC. People with an income at or below 125% of the federal poverty line —$34,688/year for a family of four—are eligible for civil legal aid.

“We are grateful to House Speaker Ronald Mariano and House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz for their leadership in providing funding for civil legal aid, which continues to be vital to the Commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “However, we urge representatives to support Amendment 301, sponsored by Division Leader Ruth Balser and Judiciary Chair Michael Day, which would add an additional $1.5 million in funding and help more people. Low-income people, and particularly people of color, face ongoing challenges due to the pandemic—in areas including unemployment insurance, income maintenance, housing, immigration, education, and family law.”

Parker noted that recent funding increases have enabled legal aid organizations to turn away fewer eligible people. “The impact of additional civil legal aid funding would be significant—improving technological infrastructure for organizations and the clients they serve, allowing organizations to hire more attorneys to take on the increased caseload that resulted from the pandemic, increasing salaries to attract and retain talented staff who are reflective of the communities they work with, and building the capacity of community and social service organizations they partner with,” she said. “Civil legal aid is the backbone of access to justice in our Commonwealth.”

Parker recognized the Equal Justice Coalition for its ongoing advocacy for 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.