|State Budget Proposing Significant Cut in Funding For Civil Legal Aid
MWLS receives a substantial amount of its funding through a state budget appropriation from the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. Last year, legal services programs statewide received approximately $11,000,000 in funding for civil legal aid. This year, with the drastic decreases in IOLTA revenues coupled with the state shortfall in revenues, legal aid programs are facing drastic cuts in the state budget. The House budget level funded legal aid but the Senate cut us by 28%. If these cuts become a reality, services to low-income people in the MWLS service area will be greatly reduced.
As you can imagine, in this fiscal crisis, our clients' need for legal assistance in the areas of foreclosure, eviction, domestic violence, and obtaining government benefits (especially unemployment compensation, food stamps and cash assistance) are even more acute. The rate of calls received at MWLS has increased 25% over the past 6 months. Decreasing revenues and increasing demand is the perfect storm. The Joint Conference Committee is now considering the budget and making decisions about how to rectify the House and Senate numbers. They have to present a budget to the Governor no later than June 20th.
How You Can Help
I would ask you to take a few minutes to call your local State Representative and Senator and ask them to speak to the Joint Conference Committee members and ask them to support the House number which is level funding for civil legal aid. Refer to budget line item # 0321-1600 - Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. If you don't know who your legislator is, go to www.mass.gov and click on Legislature and then then on "by city or town" to find your your legislators.