The lawyers of Breakstone, White & Gluck lobbied their state legislators on Beacon Hill today in support of increased funding for civil legal aid as part of the annual Walk to the Hill 2014. The event, sponsored by the Equal Justice Coalition, draws lawyers from across the Commonwealth for a day of lobbying for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, which provides legal aid for the poor and underserved.
“The amount of funding for civil legal aid has suffered a decline in the last ten years; some sources of funding have dried up, costs have increased, and the legislature has been slow to fill the gap. We are asking our legislators to increase funding from $13 million in the last fiscal year to $17 million this year,” said David White. Governor Patrick has recommended only $14 million in his budget request.
Marc Breakstone explained that investing in legal aid actually saves the state money in the long run. “For example, legal service agencies can help find available Federal benefits which people are already entitled to, and can prevent people from being wrongfully evicted and becoming homeless,” he explained. “For example,” Breakstone added, “in Fiscal Year 2012, legal aid organizations unlocked over $70 million in new revenue and cost savings, all on a modest budget of $10.5 million.”
However, caseloads are increasing, staff is being cut, and the number of people who need legal services, but cannot receive them because of budget limitations, continues to increase.
“Massachusetts needs to continue its commitment to the poor and disabled,” said Ronald Gluck. “Considering the return on investment in legal aid, the issue should be a no-brainer,” he added.