Increased Funding for Legal Services in California
Increased Funding to CA’s Equal Justice Fund:
JUNE, 27TH, 2017 | SACRAMENTO – On Tuesday, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California State Budget, including increased funding for legal aid. California lawmakers passed the state’s budget on June 15th following months of hearings and negotiations. That budget, now carrying the Governor’s final approval, contains more than $20 million dollars in new funding for civil legal aid through the state’s Equal Access Fund. The Equal Access Fund was created in 1999 as a partnership between the courts and legal aid, and it remains a critical component of support for California legal aid. With this funding, nearly 100 organizations across the state provide free legal assistance to low-income Californians, people with disabilities, and seniors. Legal aid helps people with life problems such as foreclosure, unemployment, health access, and domestic violence. The Legal Aid Association of California, along with advocates from many of its member legal aid organizations, advocated for an increase to the Equal Access Fund this year. The Equal Access Fund was funded at $10 million at its creation, and in the nearly two decades since, with the exception of a one-time increase last year, it has remained stagnant. The Budget includes an additional $10 million in the Equal Access Fund for each of the next two years. Therefore, on top of the $10 million base amount, the Equal Access Fund will contain a total of $20 million in general funds in 2018, that increase promised for 2019 as well. This increase will make a significant impact to legal aid organizations, meaning more services available to more Californians. This increase still puts California behind many other states in its funding of civil legal aid, but the impact of the additional dollars will be huge. If the increase were used exclusively to hire legal aid attorneys, it could add up to 100 attorneys who could serve as many as 30,000 people.
Cy Pres Award Allocation:
In addition to the Equal Access Fund increase, the budget includes an additional set-aside of funding for legal aid. The new provision mandates that 25% of all California state cy pres awards (funds remaining after class action settlements have compensated class members) will go to the Equal Access Fund and another 25% will go to court projects including collaborative courts and Sargent Shriver Civil Right to Counsel grants. This provision is included in AB 103, a budget trailer bill that Governor Brown also signed on Tuesday.
The full LAAC’s press release is available here: http://laaconline.org/press-release-re-budget-june-27-2017/