Thanks to the efforts of last year's legal aid funding campaign, we secured $13 million from the legislature for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). It was an increase over the prior year's appropriation, but not nearly enough to stabilize legal aid organizations' abilities to serve people who need their help.
These programs desperately need more money. A major source of funding, the Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program, has dropped a whopping 85% in just five years, from $17 million in 2008 to a projected $2.6 million this year. This drop is responsible for massive layoffs of attorneys at MLAC-funded programs. With fewer lawyers comes a reduced ability to provide services. To remedy this, we are requesting $17 million - a $4 million increase - for the civil legal aid line item in the FY 2015 state budget.
This is where you come in. You and your fellow attorneys are our best assets when it comes to convincing the Governor and Legislature that legal aid funding is critical. With your help, we need to convince Governor Patrick to include $17 million in his budget recommendations that will be issued on Jan. 22, 2014, and then we need to convince the Legislature to do the same.
The best opportunity to have your say is our annual lobby day, the Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. More than 650 people participated in last year's Walk, making it one of the best-attended State House lobby days of the year. We hope you'll join us for the 15th annual Walk to the Hill on January 30, 2014 at 11 a.m.!
Any questions can be directed to Deb Silva at 617-391-5633 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sponsored by the Equal Justice Coalition, Massachusetts Bar Association and Boston Bar Association.