Federal Funding Cut Looms for Pro Bono Legal Work
Local leaders recognize the great value of pro bono legal services. However, organizations like the Legal Aid of East Tennessee are likely to operate with less funding due to the national budget crisis. According to the website of the Legal Aid of East Tennessee, its federal funding has also been “drastically” reduced over the years.
Charlie McDaniel, the pro bono project director with the Legal Aid of East Tennessee, said, “The importance can’t be overstated. These are jobs that it takes an attorney to do. The work that is being done—there is no other organization that can do it.”
October is Pro Bono Month in the state of Tennessee and industry locals are making great efforts to increase the awareness of people to the value of providing free legal services for those who have legitimate needs, but cannot afford to hire an attorney.
Legal Aid of East Tennessee leaders has organized the pro bono efforts to offer legal advice and services in civil cases like domestic violence or bankruptcy situations.
The pro bono program is funded mainly through the Legal Services Corporation, a federal agency tasked to distribute funds to legal organizations around the nation.
Last month, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriated a $369 million funding to Legal Services Corporation. The funds represent a 2% reduction, or around $8 million compared to last year.
Steve Barr, the spokesman for Legal Services Corporation, said that the Senate will take the bill to the floor soon. He also said that the House Appropriations Committee has proposed a 26% cut for 2012 to $300.
The Senate and the House will have to reconcile those proposals, but so far, it is unclear how much of a budget cut the Legal Services Corporation will see.