Dec. 2, 2011 – President Barack Obama signed legislation on Nov. 18 that sets fiscal year 2012 funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) at $348 million, a 13.9 percent reduction from the prior level of $404.2 million. LSC is the nation’s largest single funding source for civil legal aid to the poor
One result of the funding cut is that grants to Legal Action of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Judicare, organizations that help provide representation to low-income individuals in Wisconsin, are expected to lose about $700,000. State Bar of Wisconsin President Jim Brennan, who has been a strong advocate for LSC funding over the years, noted in November that “the State Bar of Wisconsin is deeply concerned about the burden this decision places on low income families and the challenges it imposes on the operation of Wisconsin’s justice system.”
The LSC funding was a part of a broader FY 2012 appropriations bill approved in mid-November by a U.S. House and Senate conference committee for several federal departments and programs, including Commerce, Science & Justice, Agriculture, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. The funding level was approved by a 298-121 vote in the House of Representatives and 70-30 in the Senate.
Prior to the conference committee meeting, the House had proposed $300 million in LSC funding for FY 2012, and the Senate had recommended $396.1 million. The $348 million appropriation split the difference and takes LSCback to the level of funding it received in FY 2007.
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 FY2012. 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.”
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 (about $13,500 for an individual or $18,000 for a couple). In Wisconsin, roughly 450,000 individuals are eligible for LSC services.
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. In 2010, Wisconsin’s two LSC grantees, Legal Action and Wisconsin Judicare helped almost 10,000 clients and their families, but a lack of resources forced them to turn away at least one eligible client for every one they served.
By Tom Solberg
, Media Relations Coordinator, State Bar of Wisconsin
FY 2012 LSC funding cut 13.9 percent– Nov. 16, 2011
House subcommittee proposes $104 million LSC funding cut– July 13, 2011
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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