Posted April 1, 202012:51 pm
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Legal Services Corporation is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans.
- The Legal Services Corporation will receive $50 million from the $2 trillion stimulus package
- The funding will help the organization's 132 grantees assist low-income clients facing job losses, evictions and other problems stemming from the pandemic
- Legal Services Corporation estimates that it will cost at least $100 million to address the anticipated increase in legal services needed
The organization's president Ron Flagg says individuals who depend on legal aid are especially hard hit by economic downturns.
“We expect COVID-19 to adversely impact most of the clients that our grantees who we fund, serve. The issues that we believe will be felt almost immediately will include large increases in unemployment, and this week we just saw filings up to over $3.3 million,” said Flagg.
The Legal Services Corporation will receive $50 million from the $2 trillion stimulus package. The funding will help the organization's 132 grantees assist low-income clients facing job losses, evictions and other problems stemming from the pandemic.
“After people lose their jobs, they will suffer evictions, obviously given the nature of COVID-19. We're going to see an increase in need for health care and increase in incidents of domestic violence, and increase in scams particularly aimed at the elderly,” Flagg said.
Legal Service Corporation funds legal aid organizations that serve every state and U.S Territory. The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland is one of them.
Melanie Shakarian, director of development for Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, says 30 percent of Northeast Ohio was eligible for civil legal aid before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With all of the layoffs that have happened and people who have found themselves in a new financial reality, literally overnight, the client-eligible population that we serve has increased significantly,” Shakarian said.
The local legal aid office is seeing this spike in the need for services during a time when its 52 attorneys are forced to work remotely rather than in person as they typically have done.
“All of our physical offices are now closed and we have all of our nearly hundred staff working from home, our intake is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week online on our website,” she said.
Shakarian says their intake phone line has been ringing constantly. Questions include how quickly a civil legal matter can be addressed in court amid COVID-19 restrictions.
“It’s been really terrific how technology has kept us together, but of course for those really important emergencies where the courts are still open and administrative agencies are still hearing our cases, we will be in touch and go into court when those emergency proceedings are needed,” said Shakarian.
Legal Services Corporation estimates that it will cost at least $100 million to address the anticipated increase in legal services needed.
“We are going to do our best to continue to extend justice and be that catalyst for change in people's lives. But this is a wonderful thing that clearly Congress has recognized the importance of civil legal aid in funding this pandemic,” Shakarian said.