Congress gives $410 million to Legal Services Corp.

The omnibus spending bill passed by Congress on Thursday includes not only funding for the Legal Services Corporation but a raise as well.

According to a press release from the American Bar Association, the legislation provides $410 million to LSC for fiscal year 2018. This is $25 million increase in the funding level from the last two fiscal years and the highest appropriation since 2010.

Significantly, the rise in appropriation comes after the Trump Administration proposed defunding LSC completely. In its fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, the White House eliminated funding for 19 agencies, including LSC.“The ABA is encouraged that Congress sees the importance of LSC in the lives of their constituents,” ABA president Hilarie Bass said in a statement.

Bass said the LSC helps more than 1.8 million low-income Americans with their civil legal problems involving domestic violence, disaster relief, housing, veteran benefits and child custody. The additional funding will enable the civil legal aid organization to assist at least another 100,000 individuals.

Indiana Legal Services relies on LSC for the bulk of its funding. In fiscal year 2017, ILS received $6.64 million from the national organization.

When LSC made its budget request to Congress last May, the nonprofit had asked for $527.8 million for fiscal year 2018. The organization received $385 million in both fiscal years 2016 and 2017.

More funds were required, LSC told Congress, to meet the overwhelming need for civil legal services in the United States. The organization said 60.6 million Americans, or almost 20 percent of the U.S. population, are eligible for LSC-funded legal aid services across the country.   

Bass also noted despite the increase in federal dollars, the need for civil legal aid will not be met. Also, she requested another boost in funding for the next fiscal year.

“Even with this welcomed increase, more funding is needed,” Bass said. “In the past year, low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help for 86 percent of their civil legal problems, according to a nonpartisan research organization at the University of Chicago. For (fiscal year) 2019, the ABA is requesting LSC funding of $482 million, which would match the (fiscal year) 2010 funding level when adjusted for inflation.”

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