Legal Services Corporation awards more than $4.6 million to strengthen pro bono efforts targeting low-income Americans

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) announced Thursday that 12 legal aid organizations will receive Pro Bono Innovation Fund grants totaling $4,611,052 to expand pro bono legal services to low-income individuals. 

The projects will engage pro bono lawyers and other volunteers to better meet pressing civil legal needs. These projects offer innovative and replicable solutions to persistent challenges in current pro bono delivery systems.
Members of Congress congratulated legal services providers in their states on receiving pro bono grants.

"The need for civil legal aid is greater now than ever, as hundreds of thousands of veterans, elderly victims of foreclosure, and women and children desperate to escape domestic violence are not getting the assistance they need," said Texas Senator John Cornyn. "I applaud this award and will continue to do everything I can to support civil legal aid in Northwest Texas."

“Pro bono work can make a life-changing difference in someone’s life,” said Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. “I’m pleased this federal funding will support Legal Aid Chicago and its important work representing people facing eviction and ensuring families can stay in their homes. I’ll continue fighting in the Senate to support the Legal Services Corporation’s mission to ensure fair and effective access to our system of justice.” 

“Ensuring every West Virginian has access to legal aid is vital,” said West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. “I am pleased the Legal Services Corporation is investing in the Legal Aid of West Virginia pro bono program to provide low-income West Virginians with legal services, and I will continue to advocate for resources that support every West Virginian in their time of need.”

Several of the pro bono projects seek to remove barriers to success. Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas will use its grant to support a project assisting low-income individuals with driver’s license restoration. Having the right form of identification helps individuals obtain employment, pursue educational opportunities and take care of their families. Legal Action of Wisconsin's pro bono project works with low-income technical college students to address the legal issues that may prevent them from obtaining a degree and starting a career, such as bankruptcy and pandemic-related unemployment issues.

The pandemic has worsened housing instability across the country. Many of the projects seek to help low-income families facing eviction and other housing issues. Legal Aid of the Bluegrass in Kentucky will launch a pro bono program encouraging attorneys to regularly volunteer for eviction docket dates and provide extended representation to clients facing eviction. Legal Services NYC’s grant will support its efforts to partner with large law firms and corporations to provide legal representation to low-income tenants seeking essential home repairs.

“Pro bono assistance enables legal aid programs to leverage their limited government-funded staff resources with privately contributed services,” said LSC President Ronald S. Flagg. “LSC’s pro bono grants fund innovative and replicable projects that promote volunteer efforts and enable legal aid programs to help many more people in need.” 

LSC awarded these grants from its $4.75 million Pro Bono Innovation Fund included in its FY 2021 congressional appropriation. The fund was recommended by LSC’s Pro Bono Task Force in 2012. Since its creation in 2014, the Pro Bono Innovation Fund has invested $28 million in 94 pro bono projects around the country.  

The FY 2021 projects are: 

• Hawaii
Legal Aid Society of Hawai'i will receive a $245,029 grant to create nine training courses for pro bono attorneys to expand their knowledge and increase the quality of legal services provided at the state's self-help centers and other locations. The courses focus on divorce, paternity, guardianship, adoption, family court restraining orders, eviction, debt collection and district court restraining orders. 

• Illinois
Legal Aid Chicago
A $423,887 grant will support Legal Aid Chicago’s Eviction Prevention in Chicagoland (EPIC) 2021 Project. The EPIC Project will recruit pro bono attorneys to expand legal representation for low-income tenants facing eviction, including in the suburbs. 

• Kentucky
Legal Aid of the Bluegrass
A $439,999 grant to Legal Aid of the Bluegrass will help the organization transform its pro bono program into a more technologically integrated and efficient practice in the core legal areas of housing, family benefits and consumer rights. It will also launch a pilot program to secure pro bono representation in eviction cases. 
The Legal Aid Society
The Legal Aid Society’s $285,165 grant will support its Volunteer Eviction Defense Program. The program leverages pro bono legal assistance to expand the organization's capacity to meet the rising need for eviction defense.

• Missouri
Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, Inc. 
Legal Services of Eastern Missouri will receive a $371,059 grant to expand and replicate its Neighborhood Vacancy Initiative (NVI). NVI provides focused legal assistance to disadvantaged neighborhoods in St. Louis to transform vacant properties into safe and affordable housing. 

• New York
Legal Services NYC
A grant for $368,163 will allow Legal Services NYC to engage volunteers to help low-income clients navigating the complex process of applying for emergency rental assistance and other public benefits. Legal Services NYC will use a second grant for $275,054 to continue providing legal representation to low-income tenants seeking essential housing repairs. 

• Pennsylvania 
Legal Aid of Southeastern PA 
A $399,999 grant to Legal Aid of Southeastern PA will help the organization develop a regional approach to pro bono work to better meet the legal needs of low-income people. The project’s goal is to improve the entire pro bono program by providing more effective volunteer training and resources.

• Neighborhood Legal Services Association  
Neighborhood Legal Services Association will receive a $302,799 grant to expand its capacity to engage pro bono volunteers in the complex eviction prevention system in Pittsburgh. Working with the community-wide Evictions and Affordable Housing Work Group, the organization will build relationships with pro bono stakeholders and housing advocates for the eviction prevention pro bono program. 

• Texas
Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas 
Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas will use a $285,095 grant to support an existing project that assists low-income individuals with driver’s license restoration and helps eliminate underlying barriers to obtaining state IDs. Having the right form of identification helps individuals obtain employment, pursue educational opportunities and take care of their families. 

• Washington, D.C. 
Neighborhood Legal Services Program
Neighborhood Legal Services Program will receive a $382,334 grant to bolster its Housing Cooperative Preservation Initiative. This project provides high-quality, interdisciplinary legal services to low-equity housing cooperatives (LCEs). Volunteers are experts and leaders in specialized practice areas and offer transactional legal services to LCEs. 

• West Virginia
Legal Aid of West Virginia 
Legal Aid of West Virginia’s $432,769 grant will support the organization’s efforts to transform its statewide pro bono program to bring in more volunteers to meet the high priority legal needs of low-income West Virginians. It plans to develop a replicable statewide system for projects and will integrate technology to deliver free services throughout their offices.

• Wisconsin
Legal Action of Wisconsin 
Legal Action of Wisconsin will receive a $399,694 grant to expand its Student Legal Aid Project, which works with pro bono attorneys, law students and paralegal students to improve education and employment outcomes of low-income technical college students. Pro bono attorneys represent students at unemployment, expungement, drivers' license and bankruptcy hearings. 
Legal Services Corporation (LSC)?is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 132 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories

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