Legal Services and the coronavirus
The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and legal aid have long enjoyed bipartisan support because, as COVID-19 has demonstrated, Americans’ legal health is critical to our communities’ health.
Ohio’s legal aids are on the frontline of COVID-19 response: ensuring that Ohioans experiencing domestic violence are able to get to court and be safe from their abuser; providing legal advice and counsel on accessing financial resources like federal stimulus checks and unemployment benefits; and, defending against evictions and foreclosures to ensure that Ohioans remain stably housed during this critical time during the “Stay at Home Order.” Such matters, if left unaddressed, threaten not only individual Ohioans, but all of us and our communities.
LSC funding provides just over $13M to Ohio’s legal aids, which was just under a third of the statewide legal aid budget for 2018. This year, recognizing the significant impact that the coronavirus is having on families across the country, the CARES Act provided emergency funding for legal aid. Ohio’s legal aids will receive over $1.9M of the special CARES Act appropriation and are already leveraging their resources to address the heightened need of Ohio’s families.
However, there is much more work to be done. The health crisis and related economic downturn will greatly increase the need for legal services.
Please reach out to your Congressperson and ask them to support an additional $50M in emergency funding for LSC in the next federal coronavirus response package so that our legal aids can continue helping Ohioans in need.
Legal Services in the Budget for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21)
Budget deliberations for FY21 funding are also underway in Washington, D.C. The President has again called for “winding down” the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and a stop to funding civil legal services. The Trump FY21 Budget, released on February 10, 2020, calls for only $18.2M to eliminate LSC.
Yet, Congress, like the American people, recognizes that legal services are like health services – critical for all of us. As a result, Congress has increased LSC funding in each of the last three budgets. In fact, last year, Congress approved a Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) minibus spending bill in late December that includes $440M for LSC, a $25M increase over FY19 levels.
Please also reach out to your Congressperson and ask them to support LSC’s annual budget appropriation request of $652.6M for FY21 to ensure access to justice for all Ohioans, especially in this time when we need it most.