Letter: Civil legal aid funding is a bargain in its rescued lives
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
April 5, 2018 | Posted at 6:00 AM
With uncertainty about how federal tax reform will impact Massachusetts, state lawmakers writing next year’s budget have an almost impossible task. They must align public spending with programs that not only improve lives, but yield a substantial return on investment, as well.
Civil legal aid does just this by providing legal representation or advice to people with low incomes facing life-changing noncriminal legal issues, such as divorce, home foreclosure, or improperly denied public benefits such as unemployment or health insurance. Free legal representation can stabilize lives of individuals and families in crisis - such as a frail elder needing protection from an abusive family member or caregiver; a military veteran denied health care benefits; or a family facing eviction because of a job layoff. This work is provided by 14 civil legal aid programs around the state, including Community Legal Aid in Worcester.
Politicians in Washington have changed federal policy and cut anti-poverty programs, increasing the legal needs of people struggling to make ends meet, making it more important than ever that vulnerable people in our Commonwealth aren’t left to navigate our complicated legal system alone. Those who qualify for civil legal aid are some of the most vulnerable among us, an individual scraping by on little more than $15,000 per year, for example, or afamily of four living on $32,000 annually.
Simply put, equal justice under law should not be a privilege based on how much money you make. We hope that lawmakers continue to support civil legal aid.
John A. Shea, Board President, Community Legal Aid, Worcester
Douglas Brown, Board Member, Community Legal Aid, Sherborn