Legal Aid Advocates Push for More Funding in MA Budget

A group of Massachusetts lawyers will hold a demonstration at the state house Wednesday calling on legislators to pass increased funding for civil legal aid programs. Those programs provide services for low-income, non-criminal defendants. Governor Deval Patrick has already recommended higher funding levels for legal aid in his budget. 

Officials with the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation say funding for legal aid has decreased while the number of low-income individuals qualifying for aid has increased by eleven percent over the past three years. Lonnie Powers is the executive director of the MLAC. He says just under one million people in Massachusetts are eligible for free legal counsel for non-criminal issues.

“Such as eviction, foreclosure for those who might own their homes, child custody and support, denial of health care coverage, unemployment benefit appeals, domestic violence, and elder abuse.”

Governor Patrick allotted $15.5 million to legal aid in his budget released last week. That’s $3.5 million higher than last year’s legal aid funding. State Representative Cheryl Coakley-Rivera of Springfield, says she would support the governor’s funding proposal in the legislature’s budget. She says legal aid spending saves the state money in the long run.

“It actually costs the commonwealth more money to have people not represented, to have people not have the proper documentation and the proper paperwork.”

Lonnie Powers says he expects 600 attorneys to lobby their representatives to pass Governor Patrick’s funding recommendation.