BOSTON, February 16, 2016 – Massachusetts civil aid programs generated an estimated $35.1 million in new revenue and cost savings for the Commonwealth in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2015, according to a new report by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC).
The state appropriation for MLAC in fiscal year 2015 was $14.7 million, reflecting a 1.79% mid-year cut to the initial appropriation of $15 million.
“Providing relief from the suffering experienced from domestic violence; resolving child custody disputes; retaining housing; or regaining access to improperly denied benefits such as unemployment insurance or Medicaid is reason enough for the Commonwealth to invest in civil legal aid for low income people,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “But this report clearly shows that the state’s investment yields significant economic benefits, and public spending on effective, successful civil legal aid programs not only improves lives, it also provides immediate savings.”
The report is based on data submitted to MLAC by the 14 civil legal aid programs it funds in the Commonwealth.
Key findings include:
• Civil legal aid programs brought at least $13.5 million in new federal dollars to Massachusetts. Specific sources included: $7.4 million increase in federal nutrition assistance benefits (SNAP); $5.2 million from successful representation in federal disability benefits appeals (SSI/SSDI); $182,962 from successful representation in Medicare coverage appeals; and $760,966 for successful representation in federal tax appeals.
• Civil legal aid programs secured $9.9 million in additional financial support for low-income residents, including $3 million in rent relief and moving expenses for tenants in eviction cases; $2.6 million in compensation and debt relief for homeowners and former homeowners in foreclosure cases; $2.2 million in child support orders obtained; and $2.1 million in Unemployment Insurance benefits that were won on appeal.
• Civil legal aid programs saved the Commonwealth $11.6 million, including $7.3 million in avoided shelter and health care costs through preserving housing for low-income residents facing eviction; $2.9 million in avoided medical and mental health care costs through domestic violence prevention; and $1.4 million in foster care costs through obtaining custody orders for unaccompanied immigrant minors.
The full report and a one-page summary are available at: https://mlac.org/resources/research/
The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation was established by the state legislature in 1983 to ensure that low-income people with critical, non-criminal legal problems would have access to legal information, advice and representation. It is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.mlac.org.