Legal Aid's Chief Attorney Calls For Restoration of Funding for Civil Legal Services Programs; Warns That Without Adequate Funding Increasing Numbers of Vulnerable New Yorkers Seeking Help Will Be Turned Away
FRIDAY, MARCH 08, 2013

At a City Council hearing yesterday focused on The Legal Aid Society's budget, Steven Banks, the Society's Attorney-in-Chief, warned that proposed City budget cuts for The Legal Aid Society's civil legal services in the FY14 Preliminary Budget will hurt vulnerable New Yorkers seeking assistance because Legal Aid will have to turn away more families and individuals who desperately need legal help, including increasing numbers of New Yorkers seeking our civil legal aid in all five boroughs due to the impact of Superstorm Sandy.

Banks testified that eliminating this critical civil legal services funding will have dire effects on low-income New Yorkers and will result in increases in evictions, foreclosures and homelessness, increases in the number of women and children who cannot escape domestic violence, increases in the numbers of immigrants lawfully in this country who will be wrongfully deported, and increases in the numbers of children and adults who will go without subsistence income, health care, and food because of bureaucratic mistakes that cannot be challenged effectively in the absence of counsel. The numbers of vulnerable New Yorkers who seek The Legal Society's civil legal assistance have increased dramatically during the continuing economic downturn and as a result of the impact of Superstorm Sandy. Even before the proposed funding cuts, because of lack of resources, The Legal Aid Society is forced to turn away eight out of every nine New Yorkers who seek our help.

Over the past year, even before Sandy, we have seen further increases in requests for our civil legal aid above prior high levels of increased legal need: an additional 54% increase for low-wage employment and unemployment matters; an additional 18% increase for housing problems; an additional 12% increase for domestic violence and family matters; an additional 23% increase for subsistence income support problems; and an additional 11% increase for access to health care matters.