The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a fiscal year 2012 funding level of $396 million for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) last month.
The amount, while proposing an $8 million reduction in the program’s funding, would not cut the program as much as the House Appropriations Committee recommended earlier this year. The House figure of $300 million represents a 26 percent reduction from the current level of $404.2 million, which already had been reduced from $420 million when spending reductions were enacted last April.
The ABA has urged Congress to maintain funding for the LSC at a time when economic conditions have resulted in an all-time high number of people who qualify for and need legal services. More than 63 million Americans, including 22 million children, are now eligible for civil legal assistance. At the same time, LSC-funded legal aid programs are seeing revenue from Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts decreasing and state and private contributors struggling with budget issues.
In correspondence to members of both the House and Senate, the ABA and state and local bar associations emphasized that those benefiting from LSC-funded programs are among the most vulnerable Americans, including veterans returning from combat, domestic violence victims, those coping with the after-effects of natural disasters, families involved in child custody disputes, people with disabilities, and individuals undergoing foreclosure or other housing issues.
On Oct. 5, President Obama signed a continuing resolution, P.L. 112-36 (H.R. 2608), to keep the government funded through Nov. 18. Negotiations on funding for LSC and other programs will continue in the interim.