Lynne Parker

MLAC Executive Director Lynne Parker Testifies at Joint Ways and Means Hearing for FY25 Budget

BOSTON, March 19 2024 – Today, Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Executive Director Lynne Parker will testify before the Joint Committee on Ways and Means in support of MLAC’s FY25 budget request. In her remarks, Parker will request $55 million for MLAC’s line item (0321-1600), emphasizing the tremendous need for civil legal aid services across the Commonwealth.

MLAC is the largest funder of Massachusetts civil legal aid programs. Individuals and families with an annual income at or below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines are eligible for civil legal aid funded through MLAC’s line item. In 2024, that threshold is $39,000 for a family of four and $18,825 for an individual. 13% of the state population meets these eligibility requirements.

“Unlike in criminal cases, people do not have a constitutional right to an attorney in most civil legal cases,” Parker says. “The civil legal aid organizations MLAC funds help people with low incomes solve serious legal problems that impact their most basic needs, including housing, domestic safety, economic stability, employment, health care, education, and more.” By promoting equal access to legal representation and resources, civil legal aid helps ensure that a person’s income does not determine the outcome of their case or impact their ability to stay safely housed, employed, retain access to health care, or access other vital services.

“In recent years, increased investments in MLAC’s line item have helped legal aid organizations turn away fewer qualified people who seek their help,” Parker says, noting that this proves the legislature’s ongoing support is having a tangible impact. “Still,” she continues, “about 50% of people who are eligible and seek help cannot be represented due to funding limitations. While progress is admirable, significant need for civil legal services remains.”

Parker explains that demand for civil legal aid has increased across many issue areas during the past three fiscal years (FY20-23), including housing, employment, income maintenance, family law, and consumers’ rights.

In FY23, MLAC-funded legal aid organizations resolved 26,458 cases, and their work benefitted more than 95,600people. In total, civil legal aid secured an estimated $100 million in economic benefits for the Commonwealth and its residents – including benefits secured for clients and savings obtained for the state (including shelter costs).

“To meet demand, increase and retain staffing, and expand partnerships and outreach, our state’s legal aid organizations need more funding,” Parker states.

Legal aid is a vital service and essential part of the state’s safety net. Residents in 95% of cities and towns across Massachusetts were assisted by civil legal aid. MLAC will continue to advocate for the House and Senate to fund its $55 million line-item request in their respective budgets. Governor Healey’s budget proposal, released in January, allocated $50.5 million for civil legal aid.