February 20, 2020
Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Makes Its Case

April 7, 2013 — The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, a nonprofit that helps ensure low-income people with critical non-criminal legal problems get access to legal advice and representation, recently completed an analysis that showed its annual state appropriation generated more than four times as much in new revenue and cost savings.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) said civil aid programs generated an estimated $48 million in new revenue and cost savings for the state in the fiscal year that ended last June 30 while operating on a $10.5 million budget.

“Civil legal aid is a sound investment of the Commonwealth’s resources, and this report demonstrates it,” said Director Lonnie Powers, executive director of MLAC, the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth. “Civil legal aid provides crucial resources for low-income Massachusetts residents and a substantial economic boost for the Commonwealth.”

The report said, “MLAC-funded legal aid programs substantially boosts the Commonwealth’s economy each year by bringing in tens of millions of federal dollars, improving the economic condition of low-income clients and other residents, and saving the state millions in avoided benefits and social services”

The report, based on data submissions to MLAC from the 16 legal aid programs it funds, found that:
  • Civil legal aid programs drew at least $27 million in new federal dollars to Massachusetts. Specific sources were new food stamp allocations ($11.3 million); new disabilities benefits and related fees ($7.9 million); successful appeals of previously denied Medicare ($940,711); federal tax credits and refunds for individuals and families ($217,761).

  • Other benefits won for low-income residents totaled $10.7 million, and included child support orders ($3.4 million) and housing stabilization efforts ($3.2 million).

  • Civil legal aid programs saved about $9.9 million in state spending largely by keeping people out of emergency shelters ($6.1 million) and preventing future domestic violence and related health care costs ($3.8 million).
MLAC said its programs that provide legal support to families of children who are not receiving appropriate educational services or are facing inappropriate school exclusions, “contribute significantly to the Commonwealth’s economy by keeping children on the path to educational success.”

In its strategic plan adopted early last year, MLAC noted that the number of people eligible to receive its service grew by 11% from 2009 to 2010, for a total eligible population of close to one million.

Established by the Legislature in 1983, MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts. Unlike criminal defendants, low-income people with civil legal problems, involving issues such as child custody, domestic violence, housing, health care, employment, government benefits and elder issues, are not eligible for court-appointed attorneys, and rely on the availability of legal aid programs.

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