A budget agreement enacted Feb. 9 continues funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) through March 23 at its fiscal year 2017 appropriations level of $385 million and provides the LSC with $15 million in additional funds for mobile resources, technology and disaster coordinators to respond to last year’s hurricanes and wildfires.
P.L. 115-123 (H.R. 1892) marks the fourth time Congress was forced to continue funding for the federal government on a temporary basis for fiscal year 2018, which runs from Oct. 1, 2017, to Sept. 30, 2018.
The ABA, a strong supporter of the LSC, urged Congress, through meetings with House staff, to provide the supplemental disaster appropriations to address legal needs arising during the aftermath of the wildfires of California and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
Working together, the ABA Governmental Affairs Office and the association’s Standing Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness coordinated a letter to Congress signed by nine disaster relief organizations supporting the additional funding. The letter, sent on June 29, 2017, emphasized that during disasters LSC handles the federal role in justice for all, maintaining regular communication with the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate response, convening regular national legal aid disaster network calls, and sponsoring www.disasterlegalaid.org, the National Disaster Legal Aid website.
Meanwhile, President Trump followed enactment of the budget agreement with his fiscal year 2019 budget, which once again calls for only a $18.2 million appropriation for the LSC to be used to close out the program.
In response, ABA President Hilarie Bass said the president’s proposal to defund the LSC, in the face of strong bipartisan agreement over the value of LSC’s important work, is “unwarranted and should be dead on arrival.”
She explained that the success of the federal funding used to provide legal access to nearly 1.9 million veterans, senior, domestic violence survivors, natural disaster victims, and others has been confirmed in more than 30 cost-benefit analyses.
“The vast unmet need for legal services nationwide argues for a funding increase for this important program,” she said. “At a bare minimum, continued funding for LSC is critical to fulfilling our nation’s promise of justice for all and equal justice under the law.”