Young, Donnelly indicate support for legal-aid funding

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With the budget looming on the agenda of the U.S. Senate, Indiana’s two senators are both supportive of federal funding for legal aid, but neither are putting any dollar amount to their support.

Funding for the Legal Service Corp. is typically uncertain in Congress, but the stakes were raised this year when the budget proposal from the White House zeroed out the annual appropriation. Money for legal aid was included in the budget from the U.S. House of Representatives but the amount provided was $300 million — $85 million less than the amount provided in fiscal year 2017.

Since then the American Bar Association has called upon the upper chamber to fully fund legal services at the level the LSC has requested, $527.8 million.

“The House proposal would represent a 24 percent cut in grants from FY 2017 and result in more people shut out of legal represented when the number of Americans eligible for help (income for a family of four less than $30,750) is at an all-time high of more than 60 million,” ABA president Linda Klein said in a statement.

Sens. Todd Young, Republican, and Joe Donnelly, Democrat, are indicating they want to see funding for legal service providers included in the Senate’s budget. They have not said how much money should be given to LSC.

“As congressional appropriators make difficult decisions with regard to our nation’s spending priorities, Sen. Young supports sufficient funding for legal assistance for low-income Americans within the budget constraints,” said Jay Kenworthy, spokesman for Young.

Donnelly highlighted the work legal aid providers do and the need to sustain the service for the underprivileged.

“Across our states, seniors, veterans and those in rural communities are among the thousands of Hoosiers who rely on the Legal Services Corp. every year,” he said. “We should continue funding the Legal Services Corp. program because it is an essential part of ensuring that more Americans have access to legal representation.”

In the Hoosier state, LSC funding supports Indiana Legal Services, which has nine offices around the state offering legal help to low-income residents. According to the LSC, Indiana Legal Services received a total of $7.23 million in fiscal year 2015, which accounted for 67 percent of the nonprofit’s total revenue. In that same year, ILS served 20,578 people and closed 9,696 cases.

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