February 14, 2003 -- Congress approved the first funding increase for the Legal Services Corporation in three years late yesterday when it approved a $9.5 million boost to assist 26 states facing painful budget cutbacks as a result of 2000 U.S. Census data on shifting state poverty populations.
The additional funding for legal aid was included as part of Congress’ $397.4 billion omnibus spending bill and brings LSC’s total FY03 appropriation to $338.8 million. The increase means that states, such as Michigan, Ohio, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Illinois, slated to incur budget cutbacks will recover half of those losses stemming from census reallocations.
"During this time of fiscal restraint, when dollars for domestic programs were extremely hard to come by, it is truly encouraging to see Congress make this investment in equal justice," said LSC Vice President Mauricio Vivero. "The approval of this funding was a strong bipartisan endorsement of America’s fundamental commitment to ‘justice for all.’ Even a modest increase like this will have an impact on the lives of thousands of poor people seeking access to our civil justice system."
LSC is required by statute to redistribute Congress' annual investment in civil legal aid every 10 years based on the most recently available census data on the number of households per state that fall below the federal poverty threshold. To be eligible for free federal legal assistance, an individual can make no more than $11,075 annually - or $22,625 for a family of four.
The omnibus spending bill, which represents the work of a joint Senate-House conference committee, is expected to be signed into law by President Bush by early next week.
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