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ISBA President expresses concern over elimination of funding for low income legal assistance

ISBA President Skip Kenyon joins a growing list of bar association representatives nationally who are speaking out about the proposed elimination of funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which coordinates legal assistance for low income Americans including veterans, senior citizens, disaster victims and domestic abuse victims.

In President Donald Trump’s first federal budget blueprint released Thursday, he proposed cutting the 366 million dollars in annual funding for the LSC, one of 19 agencies in line for total elimination of funding.

LSC is an independent non-profit that was established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid. It is a grant-making organization, distributing more than 93% of its federal appropriation to non-profits, including Iowa Legal Aid.

Iowa Legal Aid in fiscal year 2016 received $2,508,655 in funding through LSC, and used that to staff 10 offices statewide and serve 33,489 Iowans with free legal help.

“Iowa lawyers have a long history of providing legal pro bono work to the most vulnerable members of our society. The elimination of the LSC greatly hinders the work that our member attorneys do every day on behalf of low income Iowans who need help,” said ISBA President Skip Kenyon, an attorney in Creston.

Kenyon noted that a delegation of six individuals from The Iowa State Bar Association, including Executive Director Dwight Dinkla, are travelling to Washington, D.C. in several weeks to meet personally with Iowa’s elected officials in hopes of preserving the funding for Legal Services Corp. and Iowa Legal Aid.

The American Bar Association also released a statement Thursday calling upon members of Congress to restore the funding. ABA President Linda Klein noted that LSC offices are in every congressional district and help 1.9 million people annually.

Also supporting the LSC are the heads of more than 150 U.S. law firms, who told Trump in a letter that eliminating funding would hamper their ability to provide pro bono representation because they partner with legal aid groups receiving LSC funding.

You can learn more about the annual funding appropriations from LSC to Iowa Legal Aid here.