This morning’s Washington Post contains a powerful editorial in support of legal services funding. The editorial recognizes the increased needs for help of communities living in poverty and the decrease in funding from all other sources. The Post concludes: “Mr. Fenty has proposed slashing that to $1.8 million for the coming year. The $1.1 million cut is tiny in proportion to the city's $5.3 billion budget, but it is huge for the legal aid groups and the clients that rely on them.”
Today, the District of Columbia Council is holding hearings on funding for the Office of the Attorney General. Funding for legal services is a line in the Attorney General’s budget. The funds are placed in a grant program that is awarded to the D.C. Bar Foundation and then distributed to legal services providers. These funds support community basing of services, language accessibility and loan forgiveness for poverty lawyers. [Legal Aid's Testimony availabe here.]
The District has a very challenging set of choices to make. With a $500 million budget gap, something must give. We have been encouraging the Council to save the social services safety-net, including legal service and to look at revenue options as a way to spread the pain equitably. (Significantly, yesterday the Ward 6 Democrats adopted a resolution supporting funding for safety-net programs and encouraging an increase in income taxes).