President Obama has urged Congress to give the Legal Services Corp. $402 million for fiscal 2013 – $68 million less than the budget proposed by the independent agency that provides civil legal aid to the poor.
The proposal, part of the $3.8 trillion spending plan that Obama released on Monday, represents a 15.5% increase compared to the agency's current $348 million budget. But the nonprofit corporation's board of directors in September approved a $470 million fiscal 2013 budget request that would bring it a 35% increase in funding compared to fiscal 2012.
The agency isn’t disappointed in Obama’s spending request, LSC spokeswoman Elizabeth Arledge said. LSC understands that the president has different priorities he must weigh when drafting his spending plan for the executive branch, she said.
“We’re very encouraged by the president’s number,” Arledge said.
Obama’s budget request came on the heels of a LSC survey that projects staff reductions this year at civil legal aid groups that receive money from the corporation.
The survey of 132 of the 135 LSC-funded organizations released last month showed a loss of 163 lawyers and 230 other employees in 2012. In 2011, the groups cut 833 positions.
The organizations in 2010 had 9,059 staffers, including 4,351 attorneys. In 2012, the organizations expect to have 7,833 employees, including 3,769 lawyers.
The agency doles out more money for civil legal aid than any other U.S. organization. Many of the clients are individuals facing eviction or victims of domestic abuse.