Boost in LSC funding likely to bring more dollars to Indiana

The federal budget bill passed by the U.S. Senate Thursday and headed for the president’s signature includes $440 million for the Legal Services Corp., which is expected to translate into more than $400,000 in additional support to Indiana Legal Services.

As part of the $1.4 trillion spending bill, the LSC portion is not only the largest appropriation the organization has ever received, but also comes nearly three years after President Donald Trump first proposed eliminating all federal support for legal aid agency. 

“We are grateful to Congress for increasing our appropriation to $440 million, the highest amount in LSC’s 45-year history,” LSC president James Sandman said. “This action reflects broad bipartisan support for LSC’s mission of promoting the most fundamental of American values: equal justice under law.”

An overwhelming majority of the Indiana delegation on Capitol Hill voted for the spending bill that funds the federal government through fiscal year 2020.

Indiana Sen. Todd Young joined 81 of his colleagues in supporting H.R. 1158, while Sen. Mike Braun was among the 11 who opposed the bill. In the House, the 280 members voting in favor of the legislation included Indiana Reps. James Baird, Jim Banks, Susan Brooks, Larry Bucshon, Andre Carson, Greg Pence, Peter Visclosky and Jackie Walorski. Southern Indiana Congressman Trey Hollingsworth did not vote.

Congress appropriated $385 million to LSC for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. In 2018 and 2019, the allocation grew to $410 million and $415 million, respectively.

Judy Perry Martinez, president of the American Bar Association, noted LSC uses the federal dollars to provide funding to 852 legal aid offices across the country. Last year, those offices helped more than 1.8 million people, including survivors of domestic violence, victims of natural disasters, families being unfairly evicted from their homes and veterans who need help.

“LSC works to ensure equal justice under law for all,” Martinez said. “That’s why support for LSC is bipartisan. The ABA is pleased that, with this funding, the Legal Services Corporation will continue its critical work helping low-income Americans in every community across the nation.”

The spending bill calls for the $440 million to be divided so that the bulk, $402.7 million, goes to basic field programs and required independent audits. Also, $4 million will be used for client self-help and information technology, $4.5 million for the Pro Bono Innovation Fund and $1.5 million for loan repayment assistance.

Indiana Legal Services is expecting its grant from LSC will rise by more than $400,000 in fiscal year 2020, bringing its total appropriation to $7.6 million. The legal aid provider, which has nine offices around the state, will use the money to support its total budget, which is projected to be about $11.5 million next year.

“We are very grateful for this additional funding which demonstrates the strong, bipartisan congressional support of civil legal aid program across the country,” said Jon Laramore, executive director of ILS.

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