This year's primary advocacy issues are:
- Funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC): Help fund the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which was created to promote equal access to justice by providing funding assistance to civil legal aid programs that exist in every congressional district. Your efforts last year helped increase LSC funding by $25 million to its highest appropriation ever -- $440 million. Despite this increase, funding remains woefully insufficient. Nearly one million low-income Americans who seek help for civil legal problems are turned away each year for lack of adequate resources. That number increases during emergencies like natural disasters and the current COVID- 19 pandemic. In fact, legal services offices across the country already are seeing a significant increased need for help. Our advocacy this year is critical to helping LSC get the FY 2021 funding required to meet that need.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness: Help preserve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF), which enables law school graduates and other professionals to embark upon, and remain in, less remunerative public service careers by offering partial student loan forgiveness for a service commitment of ten years. This important program has helped many underserved communities hire the prosecutors, public defenders, legal aid lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers and other professionals they need in vital public service positions. Where would communities hit hard by COVID-19 be without access to these kinds of professionals today?
- Rural Broadband: Help educate your Members of Congress on the need to increase broadband access across the country. Approximately twenty-five million Americans lack high-speed internet (or “broadband”) access, 96% of whom live in rural areas. Inadequate access to high-speed internet disadvantages those living in remote areas in many critical ways. For example, it not only makes it hard for lawyers in rural areas to practice law, but it also discourages lawyers and other professionals from working in rural areas. With schools closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the critical need for broadband access has been brought into stark focus. Many children and adults living in rural communities impacted by COVID-19 do not have adequate broadband connections to access educational materials online, participate in remote learning, or take advantage of telemedicine opportunities that might be needed if they or their families get sick. We need to do better for rural Americans.
- Legal Services for Homeless Veterans: Persuade Congress to give the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) the authority it needs to fund legal services for homeless veterans related to housing, family law, income support and the like. Nearly 40,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, and there is a very real danger that that number will spike considerably in the coming months, given the increasing number of people losing jobs, being evicted, and facing poverty in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. One of the most important ways we can help veterans achieve self-sufficiency and secure permanent shelter is to assure that they receive the legal help required to resolve legal problems that often prevent them from receiving needed VA services or benefits to which they are entitled. The lack of available legal help is exacerbated by the fact that the VA lacks the legal authority to directly support legal services. We need your help advocating for passage of legislation that would authorize the VA Secretary to use existing funds to create a private-public grant program to deliver legal help to homeless veterans in need.
To take action on other issues, please visit our Grassroots Action Center.