MLAC Thanks House Ways and Means Committee for $52.5 million in FY25 Budget Recommendation

BOSTON, April 10, 2024 –Today, the House Ways and Means Committee announced its Fiscal Year 2025 budget, which includes $52.5 million to fund civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation’s (MLAC) line item 0321-1600.

“On behalf of MLAC, I am grateful to the House Way and Means Committee for recognizing the need for increased funding for our state’s civil legal aid programs,” says MLAC Executive Director Lynne Parker. “I also want to specifically commend House Speaker Ronald Mariano and House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz for their continued support and leadership.”

MLAC requested $55 million for FY25. Governor Healey allocated $50.5 million for MLAC in her budget, which was released in January. The House Ways and Means budget brings the funding closer to MLAC’s request.

Civil legal aid is a lifeline for low-income Massachusetts residents in crisis. MLAC is the largest funder of Massachusetts legal aid organizations, which provide legal assistance to people with low incomes who are facing legal barriers to accessing basic needs. People and families with incomes at or below 125% of the federal poverty level ($37,500 per year for a family of four; $18,255 for an individual) qualify for civil legal aid.

“Demand is high for legal aid services as many people across our state struggle with issues related to housing, family law, employment, and more,” says Parker. “$55 million is the amount needed to continue implementing proven programs and grow to meet evolving community needs.”

“Legal aid staff are making difficult decisions every day about whom they can help with their limited resources,” says Parker. “We’re very appreciative for annual increases in funding from the legislature that have helped legal aid organizations turn away fewer eligible applicants. However, approximately half of those applicants are still not able to be served.”

In addition to helping more than 96,000 people last year, Massachusetts legal aid organizations provided $100 million in economic benefits to the Commonwealth and its residents, including more than $14.7 million in avoided shelter costs. Also, in FY23, 2,069 private attorneys accepted cases through legal aid organizations, providing more than 4,500 hours of pro bono work worth $9.1 million.

“I am encouraged by the legislature’s support for civil legal aid over the years,” says Parker. “I also want to thank the Equal Justice Coalition for their advocacy on behalf of the cause.”

The Equal Justice Coalition has been advocating for increased legal aid funding at the state level since 1999. The coalition includes private bar leaders along with members of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association, and the Women’s Bar Association.

—About MLAC—

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid organizations in Massachusetts. The Commonwealth established MLAC in 1983 to ensure that people with low incomes who are facing critical non-criminal legal issues have access to legal information, advice, and representation. For more info, visit mlac.org. Follow MLAC on X (@CivilLegalAid); Facebook and Instagram (@civillegalaidma); and LinkedIn (Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation)