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Friday, March 25, 2011

Idaho Legal Aid Services Funding

By Susan Graham

The Graham Law Office, P.A.

Idaho is last in line (again).  In supporting Idaho Legal Aid Services (ILAS.)

49 states provide financial support for Legal Aid Services to assist the poor and elderly access the legal system.  Idaho does not.

I am on the Board of Directors for Idaho Legal Aid.  I went to a meeting yesterday at the Idaho Statehouse where Legislators, Representatives of the Idaho Supreme Court and Idaho Legal Aid were present.     

Idaho Legal Aid had to cut back their services for seniors last year because they lost funding.  I am an advocate for seniors.  I want to protect their independence, families and assets.  Idaho Legal Aid provides services for seniors who cannot afford a private attorney.  They help them keep their home, get Medicaid benefits, or other services that allow them to live independently and safely.    

ILAS is out of money.  They have tapped their reserves, and currently, most of their staff, who are devoted to helping the disadvantaged, are working part-time.  

This is the letter I sent to Representatives of the Idaho House Committee

I am writing to request that you support House Bill 300.  The passage of this Bill will result in a $10 increase on certain civil court filings fees, which would be used to support Idaho Legal Aid Services (ILAS).

ILAS is the only state-wide non-profit law firm that provides free civil legal services to the poor and other vulnerable residents of Idaho.  Examples of the type of cases they handle include: exploited seniors, foreclosures, domestic violence, homeless veterans and neglected children. 

ILAS serves less than 20% of the demand for its services.  If this Bill is passed, it will allow ILAS to restore 15 part-time employees to full-time status.

The work of ILAS brings money into Idaho communities.  For example, in 2010 ILAS helped 298 victims of domestic violence obtain custody of their children and orders for child support, medical and day care costs.  The value of these awarded funds for a single year, is approximately $1,700,000.  As a result of these efforts and the resulting awards, there are 298 fewer individuals who need welfare, which has a positive impact on the state’s budget.

Currently, Idaho is the only state in the union that does not provide state funding support for their Legal Aid organization.  In 2006, 75% of the Idaho State Bar members passed a resolution supporting an appropriation or filing fee to support ILAS.   Without this additional funding for ILAS it will be impossible for them to continue to provide their current level of services, which is only 20% of the demand for its services.

I am an attorney with a practice that represents the elderly.   This past year ILAS had to put cutbacks in place that limit their ability to represent low-income elderly, which leaves them with nowhere to turn.

I request and encourage you to support House Bill 300 to fund Idaho Legal Aid Services.  Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Susan M. Graham

Attorney at Law

What can you do?  Contact your Legislator and ask that they support House Bill 300.  Time is short, so please do this today.  Please call the Legislative Information Center at 208-332-1000 or 1-800-626-047 and advise them you are supporting House Bill 300 in the Judiciary, Rules, and Administration Committee.  If you have to leave a message, please include your name, address, and Legislative District if you know it.

Thanks for your help.  Susan 

 


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