NCGA Budget Cuts Jeopardize Community Stability

LSSP client patternThis week the North Carolina General Assembly is set to approve its budget that eliminates $1.7 million in funding for the Access to Civil Justice Act.

With this funding, Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, Legal Aid of North Carolina and Pisgah Legal Services in Asheville help people with few options navigate their way out of crisis.

Legal Services of Southern Piedmont faces a budget cut that will limit our ability to serve the community and hurt those who can’t afford representation in civil legal matters. In its 50-year history, our organization has provided legal representation and advocacy to promote fairness and empower people to increase their economic mobility and opportunity.

Legal Aid of North Carolina, our partner in justice, also faces peril. In addition to the projected $1.5 million of state funding the organization would lose, the proposed budget from the White House also seeks to eliminate federal Legal Services Corporation funding, which greatly supports Legal Aid’s operations.

These cuts will have devastating effects on civil legal assistance across the entire state, placing greater strains on an already overcrowded court system and increasing demand on community resources.

While the government provides a lawyer to poor defendants in criminal cases, those who can’t afford an attorney in civil matters are left on their own to navigate a complex legal system.

The Charlotte region is fortunate to have two legal services organizations working together to ensure that all people have access to representation that ensures their safety, security and stability.

Many in North Carolina, especially the state’s rural areas, have few options when in crisis. Across our state, there is one legal aid attorney for every 15,000 low-income people who desperately need representation but can’t afford it.

One third of Mecklenburg County residents are financially eligible to receive our services. Without legal representation in civil matters, thousands of families can lose financial security, health care, housing and opportunity.

A 2014 economic impact study conducted by the NC Equal Access to Justice Commission found that for every dollar the state spends on legal services, almost ten dollars flows back into the state economy.

Legal Services of Southern Piedmont and Legal Aid of North Carolina offer critical support to people in crisis, help them address their basic needs, and strengthen our community.

By providing legal services and advocacy for the last 50 years, Legal Services of Southern Piedmont is a champion for those in need. We pursue justice for all people each day, in hopes of building a just community in which all know stability and are empowered to find opportunity.

Read an editorial from The Charlotte Observer regarding the Access to Civil Justice Act funding cut.

What you can do

  • Spread the word about the impact organizations like Legal Services of Southern Piedmont have on your community through letters to the editor, social media and by contacting your representatives.
  • Support the Access to Justice Campaign, which benefits both Legal Services of Southern Piedmont and Legal Aid of North Carolina. Your support is critical to our organizations at this time, and the Access to Justice Campaign is a valuable tool that you can use to support us today and every day.

Thank you to those who believe in civil legal aid and its vital role in maintaining a strong, democratic society.

 

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