In his first federal budget, President Trump proposed to eliminate the Legal
Services Corporation (LSC) and its $366 million in federal appropriations. Not
only does this place our nation’s most vulnerable people at risk, it is fiscally
irresponsible to cut a program that ultimately saves taxpayers money.
is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial
support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. LSC is a grant-making
organization, distributing more than 93% of its federal appropriation to
eligible nonprofits delivering civil legal aid. It is the largest single funder
of civil legal aid in the country, including $5 million annually to
Massachusetts-based legal services organizations.
The need for this essential service is undeniable. In the
United States, 80 percent of qualified applicants – those who meet the income
eligibility requirements and face serious legal problems – are turned away
simply because there isn’t adequate funding to take them on as clients. This
figure is unacceptably high. These are people being wrongfully evicted from
homes, people trying to safely escape abusive partners, parents trying to
advocate for a beloved child with special needs, and veterans trying to secure
the benefits that are rightfully theirs.
the Boston Bar Association (BBA) released Investing in Justice, a report which
showed that taking a preventive approach to legal issues would help families,
save government funds and ensure fairness in our justice system. Simply put,
investing in civil legal aid programs pays dividends by avoiding back-end costs.
For example, for every dollar spent on civil legal aid in eviction and
foreclosure cases, the state stands to save $2.69 on the costs of other state
services, such as emergency shelter, health care, foster care, and law
And for victims of domestic violence, every $1 spent on legal aid yields $2
in medical and mental health care savings, including $1 to the state and $1 to
the federal government.
The Boston Bar Association has long argued that legal
assistance is an essential service for those who are struggling to deal with the
issues that go to the heart of their families and livelihoods, like housing and
personal safety. But we can also make the case that it is the fiscally prudent
thing to do.
Others can, too. We need our leaders in
Washington to understand that ensuring that every American has access to justice
is not only a just cause, but a sound investment that is worth our resources.