As the economy continues to slide and the working poor struggle to hold on to what precious public and private benefits they still have left, legal services corporations are swollen with clients seeking help. It makes sense then that Republicans want to defund them.
Legal services corporations operate as private, nonprofit corporations that promote equal access to justice and provides grants for civil legal assistance to low income Americans. LSC distributes about 95 percent of its total funding to 136 independent nonprofit legal aid programs.
LSC attorneys are limited in the types of cases they are allowed to take. LSC programs assist victims of domestic violence, help establish guardianships for children without parents, help resolve landlord-tenant disputes, evictions, provide foreclosure assistance and bankruptcy assistance. LSC attorneys can also help secure disability benefits for those qualified.
The clients served by LSC-funded programs are at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level threshold, currently set at $27,563 for a family of four.
The expenses associated with defending one’s rights are well-documented and one look at the foreclosure fraud mess should tell you that predators assume the vulnerable will have no one to help them navigate the sticky and complicated legal terrains. In fact, their crimes depend on it.
But LSC attorneys work long hours, for next to no pay, to help those who are already systematically disadvantaged in our society. They help poor women, children and the disabled who are simply trying to get by on a day-to-day basis. And for Republicans, that there is the problem.
I am a former LSC attorney. During that time this country was not in the grips of a recession and my clients were not the carnage left behind by a greedy and unscrupulous private sector intent on squeezing the life out of the housing sector. Ten years ago our offices were overwhelmed with clients seeking help getting their disability benefits and finding a safe place to live for their children. We literally kept families off the street and out of crimes of desperation. For those who could not take care of themselves, we helped ensure their basic needs were met. Those goals were modest in the face of the challenges of our clients, but they were something.
For Republicans to now seek to eradicate a program instituted during the Nixon administration is simply disgusting. It’s one thing to look out for the interests of wealthy campaign donors. It is another thing entirely to aggressively and without conscience attack those in this country most at need by taking away the only avenue for advocacy they have left.
Photo from WageIndicator-Pauline Olson via flickr.