Legal Services Corporation

Latest Developments

HOUSE CJS SPENDING BILL SEEKS TO INCREASE LSC FUNDING 33% TO $550M

On May 16, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee released their draft of the Fiscal Year 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act, which would fund the Legal Services Corporation at $550 million—a 33% increase over Fiscal Year 2019 funding.

The bill is scheduled to be marked up by the subcommittee at 9:30am on May 17, 2019. Full House Appropriations Committee movement is expected to ensue within approximately one week. Passage by the full House of Representatives is not yet scheduled.

Resolving the differences between the House bill and the Senate bill and the Administration’s position will not be easy. The process for enactment is likely to take at least six months.

HOUSE SUB-ALLOCATIONS

On May 6, 2019, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) released their 302(b) sub-allocations for the twelve appropriations subcommittee bills.

The full CJS appropriations bill, which contains funding for the Legal Services Corporation, was allocated $66.4 billion—a 3.6% increase over Fiscal Year 2019 funding.

The full House Appropriations Committee approved the sub-allocations over the objections of all Republicans. Top Appropriations Committee Republican Kay Granger (R-TX) said,

“The allocations offered by the Democrats are based on topline funding levels that I do not support. I also question the Democrats’ priorities [citing a “humanitarian and security crisis at our southern boarder’]… More work needs to be done by the House, the Senate, and the White House to find a way forward on next year’s spending levels, and that is why I voted no today.”


UPCOMING DISASTER BILL

Senators are arguing the cost and breadth of an upcoming emergency disaster supplemental spending bill.

Previous iterations of this bill in both the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), and the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, chaired by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), have both included $15 million for the Legal Services Corporation in emergency disaster funding—without funding restrictions previously used for LSC disaster funding.

Democrats seek aid for 2017 disasters in addition to 2018 disasters, while Republicans seek to control spending and to focus on 2018 disasters.

On 2/26/2019, Georgia Republican Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue introduced a $13.6 billion version containing $610 million in nutrition benefits for 1.4 million Puerto Rico residents. 

Senator Shelby and Senate Appropriations Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) are negotiating a more expansive version.

LSC FISCAL YEAR 2019 APPROPRIATIONS

On February 15, 2019, the Consolidate Appropriations Act, 2019 became law. The enactment followed a partial and extended government shutdown. In the Fiscal Year 2019 Commerce Justice Science Appropriations title of the law, the Legal Services Corporation received $415,000,000. The text is available here and is linked below under the Resources tab at left.

Click here to read more of the latest developments on LSC

Overview

The President is calling for the elimination of the Legal Services Corporation. Make a stand for legal aid!

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) ensures “Equal Justice Under Law” by enabling access to the justice system for vulnerable Americans.

LSC, the central foundation for the legal aid system, provides the backbone for America’s civil legal aid and pro bono system.

93.7% of LSC’s total budget is awarded in grants to 133 civil legal aid programs with over 800 offices nationwide. At least one LSC grantee serves each county and territory of the United States.

For decades the ABA has advocated Legal Services Corporation funding as the embodiment of the federal government’s role in securing the federal rights and duties it created for the people—securing the core American value of equal justice under law.

The LSC has always had bipartisan support in Congress, and polling indicates 82% of Americans support equal access to justice that protects the vulnerable.

Budget and Appropriations Process for FY 2019

In practice, Congress has moved to biennial budgeting in recent years. For Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019, the budgets were set on 2/9/2018.

The normal budget process calls for the U.S. House and Senate Budget Committees to consider the Administration’s annual budget proposal and then to produce an annual budget establishing the total amount of discretionary spending for the fiscal year beginning October 1st and ending September 30th. However, the Administration submitted the Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal to Congress on 2/12/2018, three days after the FY2019 budget was set.

Fiscal Year 2019 defense spending and non-defense spending will increase by $5 billion each over the Fiscal Year 2018 levels.

At this point, the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees can begin writing the 12 appropriations bills that set the spending for the federal government.

In recent years, the 12 appropriations bills have routinely been bundled into an omnibus appropriations bill.

Appropriations bills are supposed to be completed before the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1st, but the deadlines are regularly breached, necessitating continuing resolutions (CRs) that fund government through a new deadline. Congress often needs 4 or 5 CRs per year before the final appropriations bills can be enacted.

ABA Policy

The ABA supports a strong, federally funded, community controlled program to provide legal aid for the poor. The ABA favors substantial private bar involvement in the delivery of legal services and actively encourages pro bono participation by individual attorneys, law firms, and corporate general counsels.

Resources

ABA RESOURCES

LETTERS OF SUPPORT

HELPFUL WEBSITES

Legal Aid Directory

Click here for a list of legal aid offices by state. The list includes national and state-specific resources for both veterans and non-military persons who qualify for legal aid.

Contact

Aloysius Hogan, Esq.
Legislative Counsel

Governmental Affairs Office
American Bar Association
1050 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Direct: (202) 662-1767
FAX: (202) 662-1762
Aloysius.Hogan@americanbar.org