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

Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, warned that the proposed City budget cuts for civil legal services in the FY13 Preliminary Budget will hurt vulnerable New Yorkers seeking assistance and we will have to turn away more families and individuals who desperately need our help.

Testifying before the New York City Council on March 8, Banks said that the consequences of eliminating this critical Council civil legal services funding will be dire – 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 our civil legal assistance have increased dramatically during this continuing economic downturn even as our City funding has decreased, and we are forced to turn away eight out of every nine New Yorkers who seek our help.

In recent months, we have seen further increases in requests for our civil legal aid above these 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.

Read the full testimony (PDF).