In the budget released March 4, the White House recommended the Legal Services Corp. receive a federal appropriation of $430 million for the fiscal year 2015.
LSC, the national agency that provides funding to legal aid offices around the U.S. including to Indiana Legal Services, applauded President Barack Obama’s proposed 18 percent increase over current funding. Along with the appropriation, Obama’s budget contains a new $56 billion “Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative” which will give additional support to legal aid.
“The President clearly understands the importance of adequately funding civil legal assistance, even in these tough financial times,” said LSC Board Chairman John Levi.
However, the administration requested $430 million for fiscal year 2014, but Congress appropriated $365 million.
While the congressional appropriation gave a welcomed increase over the $340 million allotted in FY 2013, the LSC pointed out if funding had kept pace with inflation, the agency’s appropriation this year would top $600 million.
The same day the White House unveiled its budget, the LSC asked Congress for a higher increase to $486 million for the coming FY 2015. This is the same level of support it requested the year before.
“Our request to Congress balances record-high demand for civil legal aid against the realities of the federal budget environment,” said LSC president James Sandman.
Nearly 93 percent of the proposed appropriation, more than $451 million, would be devoted to basic field grants that fund the delivery of civil legal assistance to low-income households, according to the LSC. Also, $5 million would be used for IT grants; $1 million for student loan repayment assistance to legal aid lawyers; $19.5 million for management and grants oversight; ad $4.2 million for the Office of Inspector General.
In addition, the LSC is requesting $5 million to expand its Pro Bono Innovation Fund, an initiative first funded by Congress in FY 2014. This fund supports new and innovative projects that enhance pro bono efforts around the country.