Opinion: Why California should boost legal aid funding
March 23, 2017
LAAC Executive Director, Salena Copeland, along with California State Senator Bob Wieckowski were featured in the San Jose Mercury News in this opinion piece on the importance of legal aid and the need for increased funding in California.
“Soaring rent increases in the Bay Area the past few years have left many families scrambling to find a place they can afford. Jason Tarricone, directing attorney of the Housing Program for Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, knows first-hand how skyrocketing rents can push families to the brink of homelessness.
The Silicon Valley nonprofit helps thousands of people each year avoid homelessness, gain legal status as immigrants, and increase their incomes. Last year, Community Legal Services helped over 150 families stay in their homes. And in late 2015, they negotiated an agreement that allowed 70 families to remain in a Redwood City apartment complex for an extra nine months, giving them the time and relocation assistance they needed to find new homes. Tarricone says that without the free legal help organizations like his provide, more Californians would be living on the streets. Yet the lack of funding for vital legal aid programs severely limits the amount of assistance these organizations can offer, even at a time when demand for their services is growing. Although some people might believe they have the right to an attorney, there is no such right in civil cases.
This is why we join with legal service organizations throughout California in calling on the state to provide $30 million to reach the national average in civil legal aid funding. President Trump’s budget threatens to eliminate all federal aid provided through the Legal Services Corporation. That leaves the state’s Equal Access Fund to help bridge this growing gap. Established in 1999, the fund receives just $10 million a year, a number that has only been boosted once – a $5 million increase that many of us fought hard for in this year’s state budget.
A 2013 report to the Legislature found that there are nearly 10,000 eligible Californians for every one legal aid attorney. Without additional state funding, the number of people who lack representation in our legal system will only increase.”Read the full op-ed here.
Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid Association of California (LAAC), Legal Services for Children (LSC), Family Violence Appellate Project (FVAP), California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA), Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA), Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA)