President Biden recently ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to further extend the federal moratorium on housing evictions that was set to expire on March 31, 2021 for an additional 90 days. Congress must now act to ensure that Americans have access to legal counsel during any wrongful eviction proceeding by providing additional funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), a non-partisan charitable organization dedicated to providing low-income Americans with civil legal assistance. LSC has traditionally received broad support from Members of Congress but has been chronically underfunded for decades.
The initial eviction moratorium was put in place when Congress passed the CARES Act in March 2020, which the Trump Administration then further extended through regulation while the country endured levels of unemployment not experienced since the Great Depression as tens-of-millions of Americans lost their jobs through no fault of their own. The ABA actively championed enactment of these measures and is now urging lawmakers to provide LSC with the necessary resources to make certain that people receive the eviction relief they are entitled to and desperately need.
There is a common misconception that laws act like magic wands: once legislation takes effect, the problem goes away. Unfortunately, laws do not enforce themselves, and individuals may be required to actively assert their rights in court. This often is a daunting and cumbersome process without professional legal assistance.
The Census Bureau reports that over one-third of the American population is now at risk of defaulting on their mortgage or being evicted from their rental unit. Access to legal counsel will be crucial to helping tenants defend themselves during a wrongful eviction proceeding: Studies have shown that defendants who were able to secure professional legal representation have been able to remain in their homes in the vast majority of cases, as opposed to those who represented themselves.
On April 20th and 21st, help us inform Congress that the most direct way to address this problem is to immediately include funding for LSC, the number one provider of civil legal aid around the country, in the next COVID relief package.
LSC acts as the backbone for America’s civil legal aid and pro bono system... LSC funds 132 legal aid programs in every state, territory, and congressional district with 93.7 percent of its total budget awarded in grants. These LSC grantees provide essential legal services that directly benefit more than 1.8 million low-income Americans, including many military families, seniors, domestic violence victims, and many more. They are the best equipped charitable organization to help low-income Americans navigate the housing issues caused by the pandemic.
So, what is the plan? For ABA Day 2021, which will take place April 20-21, legal professionals from every corner of the country will meet virtually with their Senators and Representatives. We plan to send emails, post on social media, send letters, post op-eds, and more on the days of the event to publicly amplify your support.
We have developed a simple, convenient, and effective process that will allow you to use our Advocacy Center to edit and send pre-formatted social media posts and emails that are guaranteed to reach your federal representatives. Directly message your Members of Congress by simply entering you name, email, and home address (to identify your elected officials): We also have infographics, one-pagers, printable postcards, and instructions on how to effectively communicate our policies and positions.
During the meetings and through the supporting messages, we will be asking Congress to include $350-$500 million of emergency funding in any forthcoming pandemic relief or regular appropriation measures.
Please let us know if you would like to attend a meeting when you register, and we will connect you with your State Captain who will be coordinating with the congressional offices to schedule the date and time. Never been in an advocacy meeting before? No problem. You can simply add your support by being there and learn the ropes for next year.
During the upcoming ABA Day events, the ABA Governmental Affairs Office will host two days of LSC Advocates and Keynote speakers, including University of Michigan Football coach Jim Harbaugh, prominent US Senators and Representatives, LSC grantees, client stories, and so much more.
Equal Justice Under the Law is a foundational principle of the U.S. legal system, and Congress should uphold America’s commitment by providing LSC with the necessary resources to ensure that every citizen has access to civil legal counsel, regardless of social status or wealth. Join us in showing Congress the way.
For more information on this and other ABA Day activities, please visit ambar.org/abaday.