Last week, we and the entire civil legal aid community were shocked and appalled as the North Carolina General Assembly approved a budget that eliminated all $1.7 million in state funding to provide legal assistance to people who can’t afford representation in civil legal matters.
The Access to Civil Justice Act is one of the public and private funding sources LSSP relies on to ensure that we can help people in crisis, who have no other source of legal assistance. Our annual budget is a patchwork of diverse support but each source is vitally important to our stability and impact.
One third of Mecklenburg County residents are financially eligible to receive our services. Without our help, thousands of families may lose financial security, health care, housing and the stability that supports upward mobility. In the wake of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force report citing the critical necessity of expanding upward mobility and opportunity to build a stronger city, now is not the time for NC to cut funds that directly support that end.
The elimination of the Access to Civil Justice Act will have devastating effects on civil legal assistance across the entire state. Legal Aid of North Carolina, our partner in justice, will lose $1.5 million in state funding, while the proposed budget from the White House seeks to eliminate federal Legal Services Corporation funding, which greatly supports Legal Aid’s operations.
LSSP and LANC offer critical support to people in crisis, help them address their basic needs, and strengthens our community. This funding cut comes as a huge blow even as we enjoy the success of our annual Access to Justice fundraising campaign, which has raised $525,000 to date – a historic amount under the leadership of campaign chair Cory Hohnbaum. But we must maintain ALL of our support to meet the growing needs of clients.
For 50 years, LSSP has provided legal representation and advocacy to ensure the safety, security and stability of our clients, promote fairness and empower people to increase their economic mobility and opportunity. We now face a loss of funding that will limit our ability to serve the community and hurt those most in need.
We appreciate the ongoing support we receive from local sources – individual contributions and institutional support – that lets us deliver justice to people in need.
Kenneth L. Schorr