New report Shows Civil Legal Aid Generates Millions in New Revenue and Cost Savings for Massachusetts

BOSTON, January 23, 2014 – Massachusetts civil aid programs generated an estimated $29 million in new revenue and cost savings for the Commonwealth in the fiscal year that ended at the end of June 2013, according to a new report by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC).

The state appropriation for MLAC in fiscal year 2013 was $12 million.

“Civil legal aid is a last resort for people facing critical civil legal issues like foreclosure, child custody battles and denial of unemployment insurance and health benefits,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of MLAC, the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth. “We are happy to report that by helping these people gain access to crucial resources, our attorneys are also providing a substantial economic boost for the Commonwealth.”

The report is based on data submissions to MLAC from the 16 legal aid programs it funds in the Commonwealth.

Key findings include:

  1. Civil legal aid programs drew at least $10.7 million in new federal dollars to Massachusetts. Specific sources included: expanded Medicaid coverage for autistic children ($500,000); federal tax credits and refunds secured on appeal for individuals and families ($385,000); and successful appeals of previously denied Medicare benefits ($273,000).
  2. Civil legal aid programs saved the state about $10.4 million in avoided costs. This was largely by keeping people out of emergency shelters ($6.6 million) and preventing future domestic violence and related health care costs ($3.8 million).
  3. MLAC’s Disability Benefits Project, which utilized $1.2 million in state funding, yielded $7.1 million in first-year disability benefits: $6.3 million to clients, $585,282 in direct federal reimbursements to the Commonwealth and $393,205 in attorneys’ fees. Lifetime benefits will be much higher as the average recipient receives benefits for 9.7 years.