The D.C. Bar Foundation is awarding $865,000 in grants to local legal services organizations.
To keep grant levels steady, foundation Executive Director Katia Garrett said the organization reached into its grant reserves for a third year. The grants, which were announced yesterday, are funded in large part by the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program, which has taken a hit in recent years from low interest rates.
Garrett said that this is the last year the foundation will be able to draw substantial funds from the reserve; annual revenues are down from a high of $2.4 million to about $500,000, she said. To compensate, Garrett said they’re looking to boost individual contributions for next year.
“These grants are a critical part of our social safety net in the District,” Garrett said. “They’re used to keep the lights on, keep the salaries paid, so these lawyers can continue doing the important work that they do.”
The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia received $122,500 – including $40,000 for its appellate litigation project – the largest grant awarded this year to any one organization. Executive Director Eric Angel said his organization, like many other legal services providers, is finding it harder to raise funds at a time when the need is only going up.
“We’re extremely grateful,” Angel said. “They’ve been dipping into reserves for precisely the same reasons we’ve been dipping into our reserves.”
Daniel Bruner, director of legal services at Whitman Walker Health, agreed. That group will get a $92,500 grant, which will fund a range of civil legal services for clients, many of whom are individuals living with HIV.
“These are funds that are vital, the Bar Foundation is one of our primary means of support,” Bruner said.
Other recipients include the Bread for the City Legal Clinic, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, and the Disability Rights Project and D.C. Prisoners’ Project of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. A full list can be found here (PDF).