New York Times Calls for Congress to Increase Funding for Civil Legal Aid

The New York Times, “Sins of Omission: The Forgotten Poor,” Editorial, February 2, 2009:   “[L]ost in the wrangling over the huge House economic measure were two programs for the poor that are in urgent need of Congressional attention: legal services and access to family planning. The proven national program of civil legal aid for impoverished Americans, created in the 1960s, is suffering from multiple blows in funding.  While the poor are caught increasingly by foreclosure, eviction and food-stamp fights for their daily bread, deficit-bedeviled statehouses across the country are cutting support for legal services or dropping the programs outright.  Creative funding that taps lawyers’ escrow accounts has evaporated because it is tied to the Fed’s fading interest rate.  Local governments, charities and pro bono law firms are similarly tight-pursed.  Scores of legal aid societies are cutting their staffs just as requests for help are booming, according to The Times’s Erik Eckholm.  Bar associations continue to help, and even in these tough times probably could do more.  But federal funding is the ultimate hope in a dire situation.  In 2008, Congress chipped in $350 million for the nonprofit Legal Services Corporation, which then distributed the money throughout the country.  Given the tough times – underfunded programs and ever more desperate clients – more money is needed.  Congress still has the opportunity to renew the regular appropriation in a coming omnibus budget bill, but it must bolster that with extra support for the program.”


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