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Legal Needs of Low-Income People Not Being Met

Created by Congress in 1974, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) “seeks to ensure equal access to justice under the law for all Americans by providing civil legal assistance to those who otherwise would be unable to afford it.”

The LSC site features a directory of programs for people seeking legal aid and other useful resources.

In October 2005, the LSC published a report titled “Documenting the Justice Gap in America: The Current Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans.”

It is clear from this research that at least 80 percent of the civil legal needs of low-income Americans are not being met. Moreover, 50 percent of the eligible people seeking assistance from LSC-funded programs in areas in which the programs provide service are being turned away for lack of program resources.

Although state and private support for legal assistance to the poor has increased in the last two decades, level (or declining after factoring in inflation) federal funding and an increased poverty population have served to increase the unmet demand … [I]t will take at least a five-fold funding increase to meet the documented need for legal assistance, and a doubling of LSC’s current funding of the basic field grant just to serve those currently requesting help.

The research analysis was completed shortly before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf region, which greatly increased the number of U.S. citizens eligible for (and in desperate need of) legal assistance.

An overview and complete report are available in PDF.

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