Lawyers Journal

MBF awards $2.15M in IOLTA grants

The Massachusetts Bar Foundation, philanthropic partner of the Massachusetts Bar Association, awarded $2.15 million in grants for 2013-14 through its annual Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA) grants program. This year's grants will fund 89 programs conducted by 62 nonprofit organizations throughout Massachusetts.

These grants support projects that either offer civil legal services to people who cannot otherwise afford them or improve the administration of justice in the commonwealth. Grants providing direct legal services include support to domestic violence programs, special education advocacy, humanitarian immigration assistance and homelessness prevention. Grants to improve the administration of justice include such efforts as court-connected mediation and lawyer-of-the-day programs.

Funds for these grants are provided by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's IOLTA Program. The Massachusetts Bar Foundation is one of three charitable entities in Massachusetts that distributes IOLTA funds.

Although available funds for IOLTA grants have declined by over 75 percent over the last several years, the MBF is pleased to be able to support many of its longtime grantees as well as provide funding for one new program - the Family Homelessness Crisis Response Project of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI).

MLRI began this project in response to the changes to Massachusetts emergency shelter eligibility guidelines that went into effect in September 2012. Because numerous MBF grant recipients cited the difficulties faced by families trying to access shelter since the new policies began as their greatest challenge, the MBF was well aware of the crisis when it reviewed MLRI's application and knew the importance of directing its support to this need. MLRI will use the MBF grant funds to represent and provide advice to homeless families, legal services providers, social service agencies and medical providers, and to conduct systemic advocacy to modify existing rules around emergency shelter.

"Even at a time of reduced resources," said MBF President Jerry Cohen, "we are proud to provide timely assistance to respond to critical issues facing our communities. By utilizing the collective knowledge of our supporters, trustees and staff, we are able to make investments across the state in programs that are truly making a difference."

The MBF also supports other administration of justice initiatives through its endowment, which has been established by generous ongoing contributions from the legal community. The foundation is happy to announce its upcoming milestone of 50 years of public service in 2014, and looks ahead to its next 50 years.

Additional information about the MBF, its IOLTA Grants Program, and other grant programs, as well as a complete listing of the 2013-14 IOLTA Grant recipients is available at www.MassBarFoundation.org.

©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association