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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Legal Services Corporation: Background and Funding

Carmen Solomon-Fears
Specialist in Social Policy

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is a private, nonprofit, federally funded corporation that helps provide legal assistance to low-income people in civil (i.e., noncriminal) matters. The primary responsibility of the LSC is to manage and oversee the congressionally appropriated federal funds that it distributes in the form of grants to local legal services providers, which in turn give legal assistance to low-income clients in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories of Guam and the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and Micronesia (including the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Palau).

Although the authorization of appropriations for the LSC expired at the end of FY1980, the LSC has operated for the past 32 years under annual appropriations laws. In addition, since FY1996, all of the LSC appropriations laws have included language that restricts the activities of LSC grantees.

For FY2013, the Obama Administration requested $402.0 million for the LSC. This amount is $54.0 million (15.5%) above the FY2012 appropriation of $348.0 million for the LSC. The Senate Committee on Appropriations recommended $402 million for the LSC for FY2013. The House-passed appropriations bill (H.R. 5326) for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) recommended $328 million for the LSC for FY2013. On September 28, 2012, President Obama signed into law the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2013 (P.L. 112-175). The LSC is to be funded at 0.612% above the FY2012-enacted level of $348 million on an annual basis until March 27, 2013. On December 7, 2012, in its request for disaster assistance funding, the Administration requested $1 million for LSC-funded programs in the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy to provide storm-related services to the low-income client population. On December 12, 2012, the Senate Appropriations Committee introduced a supplemental disaster aid bill that also included $1 million in disaster assistance for LSC-funded programs in the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.

The LSC statute requires that poverty population data from the most recent decennial census be used to distribute LSC funds. Due to changes in the data sets obtained by the 2010 decennial census, information needed by the LSC is no longer available. On September 19, 2011, the LSC Board recommended several changes to resolve the issue and improve distribution of LSC funds.

Under the LSC’s competitive process, legal services providers in every jurisdiction bid to become the LSC grantee for a designated service area in a state. During 2011, the LSC funded 136 local programs/grantees in 915 offices employing 4,097 attorneys. Local programs establish their own eligibility criteria, in which clients served may not have income that exceeds 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. In 2011, 71% of LSC clients were females and 29% were males. The majority of LSC clients (85%) were between the ages of 18 and 59, 13% were age 60 or older, and 2% were under the age of 18. Almost 47% of LSC clients were non-Hispanic white, 27% were non- Hispanic black, almost 8% were of other races, and about 18% were Hispanic. In 2011, LSC grantees closed 899,817 cases involving issues primarily related to families (divorce, child support, etc.), housing, income maintenance, consumer finance, and health.

Date of Report: December 18, 2012
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: RL34016
Price: $29.95

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