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January 01, 2012

Developments in Model Approaches To Statewide Legal Assistance Systems

David Godfrey

Model Approaches to Statewide Legal Assistance Systems is a discretionary grant program of the Administration on Aging that is designed to help states develop and implement cost-effective, replicable approaches for integrating senior legal helplines into the broader network of state legal service delivery systems. The focus of these programs are legal helplines, which assist seniors in accessing quality legal services to ensure their rights and financial security.

Since 2006, thirty-one states have been awarded funding from the Administration on Aging to participate in Model Approaches to Statewide Legal Assistance Systems.

The grants are currently split between two distinct funding cycles—eleven states are in the third year of a three-year funding cycle and seven states in the second year of a three-year funding cycle. In an effort to get all of the programs on the same three-year funding cycle, the eleven grantees in their third-year have recently been notified that they are eligible to apply for a fourth year of funding to "fine tune" and fully implement their work plans. This will result in all of the 18 currently-funded Model Approaches projects expiring at the same time in 2013.

This means that there will not be a call for new project proposals in 2012 and, assuming that the budget forecast remains unchanged, there will be a much larger call for proposals for funding in 2013 (about $1.8-million in projects will be expiring that year).

Under previous grant restrictions, states were eligible to apply for and receive Model Approaches funding only once. With 31 jurisdictions (30 states and the District of Columbia) having received funding, the pool of eligible applicants for Model Approaches projects is shrinking, but there are still states with significant interest in participating in Model Approaches.

At the same time, many of the 31 jurisdictions that have previously participated in Model Approaches are looking to move to the next level of high-impact legal services delivery. As a result, AoA is considering a two-level request for proposals in 2013. States who have not yet participated in Model Approaches will be eligible to apply for a Model Approaches Phase I project and will likely see grant expectations very similar to what was asked for in 2009 and 2010 (minor adjustments and fine tuning based on past experience likely.)

States that have completed Model Approaches Phase I will be eligible to apply for Model Approaches Phase II. It is anticipated that the Phase II Model Approaches projects will build on the experience and success of Phase I and will achieve more evolved legal service delivery systems capable of addressing increasing demand on priority legal issues impacting seniors most in need.

Details of the Phase II projects are undetermined at this time, but certainly it is important for past Model Approaches states interested in future funding opportunities to start thinking seriously about what they could do to implement existing service delivery standards, improve and expand legal service integration efforts, and intensify focus on priority legal issues that were central to Model Approaches Phase I. As always, only the strongest and most responsive applications will survive what is expected to be a very vigorous competition.

David Godfrey

About the author: David Godfrey is a Senior Attorney at the ABA Commission on Law and Aging.