July 13, 2011 – A House Appropriations subcommittee has proposed a $104 million funding cut for the Legal Services Corporation for fiscal year 2012 (FY12).
The House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee released an overview of draft legislation that would cut LSC’s budget to $300 million, a 26% reduction below the agency’s FY11 funding level. The full House Appropriations Committee markup of the bill is scheduled for Wednesday, July 13 (watch here for updates). The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet released its bill.
Bar association leaders from all fifty states sent a letter to Congress in April endorsing the Obama Administration’s request to fund LSC at $450 million in FY12. The letter stressed that citizens who rely on LSC-funded programs “are among the most vulnerable Americans, including veterans returning from combat, domestic violence victims, those coping with the after-effects of natural disasters, families involved in child custody disputes, people with disabilities, and individuals undergoing foreclosures or other housing issues.”
Most of the proposed cut comes from LSC’s basic field grants, which are distributed to 136 independent nonprofit organizations that form the backbone of America’s civil legal aid system. This funding would be cut to $274.4 million, a 27.5% reduction from current funding of $378.6 million.
Two Wisconsin programs, Legal Action of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Judicare, rely on LSC for nearly $5 million, which is about one-half of their total annual funding. In 2009, 117 attorneys and other staff at the two agencies closed 8,759 cases, primarily involving family (33%), housing (21%), income maintenance (21%) and consumer finance (13%) issues.
Congress cut LSC’s FY11 funding by 4%, from $420 million to $404.2 million. The impact of that cutback, combined with reductions in state funds, Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts and other funding sources, has led to reduced services for clients of LSC-funded programs.
Established by Congress in 1974, LSC is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation that promotes equal access to justice and funds high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and families. LSC-funded programs provide legal services to persons at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty guideline. Last year, the 136 nonprofit programs funded by LSC closed nearly 1 million cases, which affected 2.3 million people. The legal aid programs also assisted an additional 1.4 million Americans through referrals to private lawyers, self-help workshops and other services.
By Tom Solberg
, Media Relations Coordinator, State Bar of Wisconsin
Wisconsin joins other state bars urging Congressional support for LSC funding – April 27, 2011
New commission promotes access to justice for Wisconsin residents – Aug. 2, 2010
Legal Services Corporation Board meets in Wisconsin --Aug. 9, 2010
Board actions: State Bar endorses federal funding for legal service to poor --June 29, 2009
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