FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 18, 2011
Legal Aid a Casualty in FY 2012 Spending Package
Lawmakers Pass ‘Minibus' Package That Slashes Funding for Legal Services Programs
Congress voted late Thursday on a spending package that includes significant cuts to the Legal Services Corporation, a move that will make it significantly harder for low-income people to access legal aid.
"Legal aid grantees help low-income people with legal issues regarding foreclosures and evictions, consumer problems including predatory lending, restraining orders in domestic violence cases, child custody,child support, bankruptcy and more," said Alan W. Houseman, executive director of CLASP, the Center for Law and Social Policy. "With the lingering effects of the recession, low-income people's need for legal assistance is growing.
"Reducing funding for LSC curtails people's access to resources to secure equal justice," Houseman added. "The reduced funding for LSC is part and parcel of a larger issue with the direction of our policies. Domestic programs that aid low- and moderate-income people remain a target of deep cuts, yet we continue to punt the question of how to make sure we generate enough revenue to meet the nation's needs. "
The cuts to LSC are part of a broader appropriations bill or "minibus" that bundles FY 2012 funding for Commerce, Science & Justice, Agriculture, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. The bill reduces funding for LSC in FY 2012 to $348 million from $404.19 million this fiscal year. The last time LSC was funded at $348 million was in 2007. The entire cut is designated to come from basic field programs, which means LSC grantees providing legal assistance to low-income clients would see a cut to their grants amounting to 14.8 percent.
LSC is the largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income people. Already, legal services providers are being forced to lay off staff, make critical programmatic decisions, and even shut their doors. A cut on the scale included in the minibus would force even more offices to close and many in need of legal help to be turned away.