Everything we have worked for is at risk! Due to the continuing economic downturn, legal aid programs are running out of money, despite the level funding from the Commonwealth that we fought so hard to maintain. As you may recall, thanks to your participation in last year's legislative campaign, we were successful in maintaining $9.5 million in state funding for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) line item in FY12.
However, due to a dramatic 78% decline in income generated from the Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program, MLAC has cut grants to the legal aid programs it funds by 56% since FY08. In response, programs have reduced office hours, eliminated staff, cut salaries and benefits, and spent down their reserves. Unless additional state funding is obtained to make up for the lost IOLTA income, legal aid programs will be forced to make even deeper cuts at a time of unprecedented need.
As a result, your help is even more critical this year! To avoid further cuts and help restore service levels, we are requesting $14.5 million - a $5 million increase - for the civil legal aid line item in the upcoming FY13 state budget.
This is going to be a major undertaking, but we can make it happen with your support. Please join us on January 26 for Walk to the Hill! And please be ready to work with us through the budget process to protect access to justice for the Commonwealth's neediest citizens. Thank you.
Chair, Equal Justice Coalition