Legal Services Field Program Grants Are Cut Four Percent for FY 2011; FY 2012 Funding Unsure

May 11, 2011

By Linda E. Perle

On April 15, President Obama signed into law a bipartisan bill that provides funding for the federal government for the remainder of FY 2011 and includes funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).  LSC had been facing a $70 million cut included in a budget passed by the House of Representatives - all of which would have come out of Basic Field grants that support the 136 legal aid programs providing basic legal assistance to low-income people across the country.  A proposed amendment to the House bill that would have eliminated funding for LSC was handily defeated on a bipartisan vote of 259 to 171.

Instead, the bill that was signed into law provides for an overall FY 2011 appropriation of $404.19 million for LSC, which represents a $15 million cut for Basic Field grants and a .2 percent rescission that was applied across-the board-to all LSC accounts. This equals a total cut of $15.81 million from FY 2010's $420 million, or 3.76 percent overall cut in LSC funding and a 3.99 percent cut to Basic Field funding.  With only seven months left in the grant year, the cuts will have to be absorbed by grantees at a higher rate, which translates to a 6.85 percent cut for the remainder of the grant year (January 1-December 31), starting with the monthly checks grantees received for May 2011. 

Funding for FY 2012, which will begin on October 1, 2011, remains uncertain.  LSC has asked Congress to appropriate $516.5 million for FY 2012.  President Obama's budget request for FY 2011 seeks $450 million for LSC.  During the April 5 House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies hearing on the FY 2012 budget request for LSC, there was discussion of returning LSC funding to the FY 2008 level of $350.49 million.  The FY 2012 GOP budget resolution, which proposes $6 trillion in overall cuts over 10 years and an overhaul of entitlement programs, did not include specific cuts for LSC or other agencies, but also suggested that LSC funding would be cut to 2008 levels.

As Congress begins its consideration of the budget for FY 2012, we will keep you posted with additional information.

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