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ABA Calls For Boost In Federal Legal Aid Funds

Friday, July 14, 2006

  • By: Steve Lash
  • Organization: Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
  • Source: Montana > Montana Advocate Resources

Citing the worst natural disaster in modern U.S. history, the American Bar Association is urging the Senate to approve at least $358 million for the Legal Services Corp. next fiscal year, a $28.2 million increase from the federal funding slated for LSC this year.

The additional funds are needed, in large part, to provide legal aid to the thousands of Gulf Coast residents thrust into poverty in the nearly 11 months since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the region, the ABA said. Ideally, the Senate should meet LSC's request for $411.8 million in federal funds next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, ABA President Michael S. Greco stated in a July 6 letter to Senate appropriators.

"The Preamble of the U.S. Constitution states that the first enumerated function of government is to 'establish justice,'" Greco wrote in his letter. "A real crisis exists for the millions of low-income persons who are unable to access the justice system; many of these individuals have expanded legal needs or are suddenly poor because of natural or other disaster."

In his letter, Greco also made a direct appeal to lawmakers, stating that LSC assists "low-income persons in every congressional district in the country." The corporation has provided legal aid for indigent and suddenly poor people after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, as well as for families of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Greco added.

The Senate is expected to pass its funding legislation for LSC by the fall. A committee of Senators and House members will then meet to iron out differences between their chambers' funding measures, followed by Senate and House votes on final passage of identical legislation.

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