OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma’s statewide nonprofit law firm providing free civil legal services to elderly and low-income persons who are about to lose their children, housing, health care or income or who are victims of domestic violence, is preparing for a federal funding cut of approximately $700,000 for the coming fiscal year.
President Obama signed the appropriations bill on Nov. 18 that set funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) – the largest single funding source for civil legal aid to the poor – after Congress voted to cut funding to LSC by $56 million, or 14.8%.
LSC was established by the Congress to provide equal access to justice and to ensure the delivery of high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income Americans. LSC currently provides funding to 136 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.
Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma (LASO) is Oklahoma’s only statewide provider of civil legal assistance to low-income and elderly persons, and LSC is LASO’s main funder source.
The $700,000 cut will equal nearly 10 percent of LASO’s budget.
Other funding sources are the State of Oklahoma; the Oklahoma Bar Foundation; 15 United Way or United Fund organizations; and generous attorneys law firms, foundations, businesses and individuals throughout the state contributing to the Campaign for Justice.
No decisions have been made by LASO’s Board of Directors regarding implementation of LSC’s funding cut.
Through a network of 22 offices, LASO attorneys and private attorneys provide legal assistance to low-income persons in all 77 counties.
Nearly 700,000 Oklahomans are eligible for Legal Aid’s services. This is due to the fact that they have incomes at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty line and qualify for civil legal assistance.
Income limits for individuals and families of four are $13,613 and $27,938.
In an average year, LASO provides assistance to between 15,000 and 20,000 eligible persons with civil legal problems affecting 40,000-50,000 immediate family members.