MBA President Carol A.G. DiMento took the case for legal-aid funding to Beacon Hill on March 14 during the third annual Walk to the Hill event in support of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC).
The event is held each year to draw attention and support among members of the legislature for the MLAC, which funds civil legal aid for low-income residents of the commonwealth.
With funding from the state and the Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program, MLAC makes grants to 18 local and statewide legal-aid programs. This year, MLAC has requested level funding of its general support in the amount of $4.8 million and additional level funding of nearly $4.3 million for three specific programs that deal with battered women, Medicare home health care and disability benefits.
In her address in Nurses Hall of the State House, DiMento urged legislators to support MLAC's budget request, while noting that this "funding from the Commonwealth is $16 million below the level that is needed."
"Preserving citizens' access to civil legal aid is more important now than ever before," she said. "The current economic disaster is devastating the lives of low-income people throughout Massachusetts.
"And they are suffering twice," said DiMento, "first, because low-income people are being especially hard-hit by job losses; and second, because the drastic changes in the Commonwealth's own budget are forcing sharp cuts in public programs that are vital to low-income citizens' needs for health care, housing, security and nutrition."
For more information about the need for state funding of MLAC, see the President's View on page 6.