The bipartisan deal on the federal budget includes a $15.8 million midyear cut for the Legal Services Corp., according to new details released on Tuesday.
The cut is smaller than the $70 million that House Republicans proposed to take in February from the Legal Services Corp., which is the nation's largest funding source for civil legal aid to the poor. Still, program officials had hoped to avoid any cut because demand for legal aid has increased during the economic downturn.
Legal Services Corp. received $420 million from Congress last year, so the cut represents a 3.8% reduction in its full-year budget. But because the federal government's fiscal year began Oct. 1, officials will need to find the money with more than half the year already passed.
"Every dollar provided for civil legal assistance helps low-income individuals gain access to our justice system. We are grateful that funding cuts will not be as deep as initially proposed," John Levi, the chairman of the Legal Services Corp. board, said in a statement. Levi, a Sidley Austin partner, added that attention will now turn to funding for the next fiscal year.
A spokesman, Stephen Barr, said the $15.8 million cut would mean reductions for some of the field grants that go out to 136 local legal aid organizations. It's not clear yet which organizations would be most affected, he said. The $15.8 million cut reflects both a $15 million cut targeted for the corporation, as well as a 0.2% across-the-board cut to all federal non-defense programs.
In March, The National Law Journal reported on the effects of legal aid programs on clients, including those facing eviction and domestic abuse, and on the politics surrounding funding.
The House and Senate are expected to vote on the budget deal by the end of the week.
Updated at 12:23 p.m. with additional reporting.