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Spending Package Likely to Bolster Legal Services Landscape

Economic relief funds recently appropriated by Congress are going to have a notable impact on legal services, lawyers and the justice system, according to an analysis by the American Bar Association (ABA).

covid 4948866 640smallThe COVID-19-relief bill offers $900 billion in stimulus funding as part of a $1.4 trillion spending package recently signed into law by President Donald Trump.

Among those on the receiving end of the above-mentioned appropriations is the Legal Services Corporation, which offers legal aid in civil matters to low-income earners. According to the ABA, the group received a $25 million funding bump, up to $465 million, for Fiscal Year 2021.

“We are grateful that Congress is poised to provide additional support for legal aid to meet the numerous critical civil legal issues faced by low-income Americans,” said Legal Services Corporation President Ronald S. Flagg. “Whether the issue relates to job losses, healthcare, evictions or domestic violence, access to a lawyer can make a life-impacting difference. We are hopeful that the new Congress will include additional funds for [the Legal Services Corporation] in the next COVID-19 relief legislation as the pandemic has both increased the numbers of Americans falling into poverty and caused a surge in these legal needs.”

FROM TWITTER

Gordon Feinblatt LLC @GordonFeinblatt Dec 30, 2020

"In this special edition of the #Maryland Legal Alert, our Financial Services team explores federal protections in place for #stimulus payments under the recently enacted Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. https://bit.ly/2WT6QLI. #banks #creditunions #garnishment #rebate"

According to the Legal Services Corporation, more than 90% of its most recent appropriation will be put toward grants funding the “direct delivery of legal assistance.” A recent survey from the organization indicates 58.5 million Americans were eligible for its services last year. It also notes experts expect the need for these services to grow in the coming months as low-income earners face eviction, job loss and other COVID-19 related challenges.

Along those lines, the ABA analysis indicates the bill’s emergency relief provisions will provide for $25 billion in funds specifically for those facing eviction. A one-month eviction moratorium was also included in the legislation extending through Sunday, Jan. 31.

Further, another notable inclusion in the bill is a federal judiciary appropriation of $7.72 billion for discretionary purposes. This represents a $233.3 million bump over last year’s allocation, according to the ABA. Defender Services saw an $81.7 million increase, to $1.32 billion, and court security services were increased by $24.8 million to $664 million total.

FROM TWITTER

Jackson Lewis P.C. @JacksonLewisPC Dec 30, 2020

"This Legal Update by attorneys Melissa Ostrower and Robert Perry reviews several rules giving further #COVID19 relief contained in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, including changes to #PPP, the employee retention tax credit and other employer-related tax provisions."

“Criminal justice reform got a boost in the legislation with $25 million for veteran treatment courts and the restoration of eligibility for Pell grants to prisoners. This measure, supported by the ABA, repeals a 25-year-old prohibition and is expected to improve post prison re-entry and reduce recidivism,” according to the advocacy group. “The legislation also lifts the ban on federal student loan access for those with prior drug convictions and includes $2 million for the John R. Justice Prosecutor and Defense Loan Forgiveness program.”

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