IBF establishes grant program with national settlement funds

July 17, 2015

The Indiana Bar Foundation has established a new grant program to help residents and their communities heal wounds from the Great Recession.

With funds from a national settlement, the IBF is offering money to support civil legal aid groups with foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment projects. The nature of these projects is being left up to the legal services organizations.

The foundation wants legal aid groups and whatever nonprofits or agencies with whom they may partner to formulate creative and unique programs that fit their communities’ specific needs, said Chuck Dunlap, executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation.

In August 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice and various state attorneys general entered into a $16.65 billion settlement agreement with Bank of America. Of that total, a minimum of $30 million was directed to the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account programs which have been devastated by the sustained historic-low interest rates.

The Indiana Bar Foundation has received $584,646.26 from the national settlement. Initially, IBF was planning to distribute the funds across the state to its pro bono districts but the Bank of America agreement mandates the money go to civil legal aid groups. Also, terms of the settlement agreement limit the money from being used for anything other than foreclosure relief or community redevelopment.

However, Dunlap said grant applicants have some leeway since “foreclosure prevention” and “community redevelopment” are not defined in the agreement. The civil legal services nonprofits can collaborate with other organizations to develop programs in their communities.

Applications, which have already been sent to major legal aid providers in the state, are due Sept. 14, 2015. The IBF will disperse the funds in one- or multi-year grants starting sometime prior to December 2015.

Projects receiving the grant money will be required to collect data on who was helped and how the funds benefited the recipients. The goal, Dunlap said, is to be able to show the impact the money made.



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