"With more Americans recently pushed into poverty, cutting the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) budget by a proposed $56 million will further erode their access to justice and damage the legal system, "said New York State Bar Association President Vincent E. Doyle III, after a joint Congressional conference committee agreed to a $348 million appropriation.
The House of Representatives was expected to approve the measure Nov. 17.
"Without adequate funding for legal services, the 'justice gap' in the United States will continue to grow," Doyle said.
Legal services programs funded by LSC help clients deal with serious, non-criminal legal matters such as child custody, domestic violence, apartment evictions, bankruptcy, and accessing unemployment, Social Security and health benefits. Today, LSC recipient organizations also must address the increasing legal needs of veterans, active duty military personnel and their families.
Doyle noted that, according to LSC, 63 million Americans have incomes that are low enough to qualify for legal assistance, a 17 percent increase since 2008.
The New York State Bar Association has supported President Obama's $450 million funding request for LSC. The Senate approved a $396 million appropriation for the fiscal year beginning October 1; the House, $300 million. This week, a joint conference committee agreed to $348 million. (LSC currently receives $404 million.)
"Even at $450 million, the legal needs of most low-income people in New York and the nation will not be met," said Doyle of Buffalo (Connors & Vilardo, LLP). "A $450 million appropriation would be far less than what Congress approved in 1995, which in today's dollars would be equivalent to $605 million."
The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.
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