Governor Newsom Signs 2019-20 State Budget, Including Critical Funding for Legal Aid

Media Contacts:

Salena Copeland, 510-893-3000 x 106 (scopeland@laaconline.org, Lorin Kline, 510-893-3000 x105 (lkline@laaconline.org)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 3, 2019

OAKLAND – After passing through the state Assembly and Senate, the California State Budget—at $214.8 billion—was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on June 27, 2019. The budget includes a one-time increase of $20 million for Equal Access Funds (EAF), an important source of necessary funding for legal aid organizations across California to provide much-needed services to low-income residents. Critically, the EAF funding will go through the end of FY2020-2021, which means that programs receiving those funds will have more time to use the funding for essential aspects of serving clients, like hiring new attorneys.

The Equal Access Fund, part of the Judicial Branch’s budget, was funded at $10 million at its creation in 1999. In the nearly two decades since, it has largely remained stagnant, finally seeing some new support in recent years. With this funding, nearly 100 organizations across the state provide free legal assistance to low-income Californians, people with disabilities, and seniors. This assistance addresses major life problems for people in need such as immigration, foreclosure, unemployment, health access, and domestic violence.

Specifically, the current EAF funding will be “to provide eviction defense or other tenant defense assistance in landlord-tenant rental disputes, including pre-eviction and eviction legal services, counseling, advice and consultation, mediation, training, renter education, and representation, and legal services to improve habitability, increasing affordable housing, ensuring receipt of eligible income or benefits to improve housing stability, and homelessness prevention.”

A second notable aspect of the State Budget is $2.5 million for Shriver Pilot Projects. The Shriver projects provide vital services to low-income Californians, primarily in eviction matters, where the system is stacked against them because the other side is represented.

The outcome of this year’s budget process will provide stability to legal services providers and ongoing and reliable services to the vulnerable Californians they assist.

LAAC has been deeply involved in the State Budgetary process, fighting for EAF funding and funding to the Shriver Pilot Projects. LAAC is a nonprofit organization created for the purpose of ensuring the effective delivery of legal services to low-income and underserved people throughout California. As the statewide membership organization for almost 100 legal services nonprofits, we serve as California’s unified voice for legal services in advancing the needs of the clients of legal services on a statewide level regarding funding and access to justice issues.

Salena Copeland, the Executive Director of LAAC, is hopeful that this stable funding will help low-income Californians when they need it the most. “Attorneys do make a difference, and we want a system that is fair for everyone. Until we have a system where an attorney isn’t necessary, LAAC wants to make sure that everyone has access to an advocate to help.”