Frequently Asked Questions – Grants

Q: From where does the Foundation get its money?

A: On behalf of the Supreme Court of Texas, the Foundation administers the Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program, established in 1984 by the Supreme Court of Texas. The IOLTA program allows attorneys to pool short-term or nominal deposits made on behalf of clients or third parties into one account. Interest generated by these accounts is dedicated to helping nonprofit organizations that provide free civil Legal Aid to low-income Texans. The Foundation also administers the Basic Civil Legal Services (BCLS) Fund, enacted by the Texas Legislature in 1997. People who file lawsuits must pay a small additional fee. These fees are designated to assist nonprofit organizations in providing free civil legal services to low-income Texans. The Foundation is also the administrator of the Crime Victims Civil Legal Services (CVCLS) fund. The monies granted must be used to provide free civil legal services to low-income victims of crime, immediate family members and claimants.

Q: Who may receive funding?

A: Prospective grantees must be nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organizations that have as a primary purpose the delivery of civil legal services to low-income Texans. The Foundation does not grant funds to individuals. Each funding source has several additional requirements that prospective grantee organizations must meet. For more information, please see the rules governing operation of the individual funding sources. Rules Governing the Operation of TAJF PDF Document, the BCLS Court Order PDF Document and the CVCLS Court Order PDF Document.

Q: Who is eligible for services from the funds distributed to Foundation grantees?

A: Funds from the Foundation help Low-Income Texans. For the distribution of IOLTA and BCLS funds, the Foundation defines low-income as those who live at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level.  The CVCLS program assists low-income victims of crime that live at or below 187.5 percent of poverty level. See the TAJF 2014 Financial Eligibility Guidelines PDF Document.

Q: What kind of assistance do Foundation grantees provide?

A: Grantees provide civil Legal Aid to indigent Texans who cannot otherwise afford an attorney. These individuals may receive legal assistance in consumer matters, employment, divorce, adoption, access to health care and public benefits, housing, individual rights, and wills and estates. Through the CVCLS program, certain victims of crime may receive similar civil legal services in relation to the specific injury suffered.

Q: How and when does my organization apply for funds?

A: The Texas Access to Justice Foundation accepts applications usually between February and April each year. Our website will announce any requests for proposals.  Completed applications must be submitted to TEAJF by the published deadline. The TAJF Board of Directors makes funding decisions during the summer. Grant awards announcements are made shortly thereafter. Downloadable grant applications are available in the Grants section of the TAJF website. While the grant application may change slightly from year-to-year, the application currently available on the site should provide a good representation of what will be required in the next grant cycle. If you would like to receive notice of the next available grant application cycle, please send complete business contact information to Jonathan Vickery, Director of Grants; this information will be sent to you as soon as it is available. You should receive confirmation that your request has been received. If you do not, call 800-252-3401, ext. 110, outside of Austin or 512-320-0099, ext. 110, in Austin.

Q: How are grant decisions made?

A: The Foundation's Board of Directors reviews both administrative and programmatic aspects of applicant organizations. Some funds are distributed to organizations that provide statewide services, while other funds are distributed to organizations that provide services to their local communities. The funds are distributed using the poverty population, as determined by the U.S. Census Bureau, of the area where the grantee is located. The Board attempts to ensure that funds granted by the Foundation are not used to duplicate a service already funded by another entity or in a place where other funds are available for the same purpose.

Q: What are the specific funding source restrictions?

A: Each program has its own particular set of restrictions, some of which are listed below. For more information on funding restrictions, please see the IOLTA Rules PDF Document, BCLS Order PDF Document, CVCLS Order PDF Document and the General Grant Provisions for each funding source.

IOLTA funds may not be used to directly fund class action lawsuits; to directly fund lawsuits against governmental entities, except by individuals to gain benefits authorized by statute or regulation; to support lobbying for a candidate or issue; and may not be used in matters that might reasonably be expected to result in a fee from public funds or from an opposing party unless appropriate attempts have been made to obtain representation from an attorney in private practice.

BCLS funds may not be used to directly or indirectly support a class action lawsuit; to directly or indirectly support a lawsuit against a governmental entity (except by groups or individuals to gain benefits authorized by statute or regulation), political party or candidate; to directly or indirectly support lobbying for or against a candidate or issue; to directly or indirectly support abortion litigation; to directly or indirectly represent an individual who is confined to jail or prison; to directly or indirectly provide legal services to an individual who is not legally in this country unless necessary to protect the physical safety of the individual; and in matters that might reasonably be expected to result in a fee from public funds or from an opposing party unless appropriate attempts have been made to obtain representation from an attorney in private practice.

CVCLS funds may not be used for class actions; may not be used against a governmental entity, except by groups or individuals to gain benefits authorized by statute or regulation; may not be used for lobbying; and may not be used for any case or matter that, if undertaken on behalf of an indigent person by an attorney in private practice, might reasonably be expected to result in the payment of a fee for legal services from an award to the client from public funds or from an opposing party unless applicant has been unable to obtain counsel because the potential fee is inadequate, likely uncollectable, would substantially consume recovery, or otherwise prevent applicant from obtaining counsel.

Q: Where can I get a quarterly report, budget revision form or carryover request form?

A:  The Foundation maintains commonly used forms on our website under Admin Forms.  Please contact Jonathan Vickery for help in completing forms or if you have any questions.

Q: When are the quarterly reports due?

A: Quarterly reports pertaining to most grants are due Dec. 15;  March 15; June 15, and Sept. 15. With approval, some grantees are permitted to submit quarterly reports on the last working day of the month. There are grants awarded that may have a different grant year and reporting dates.  Awardees will be notified of any changes.  Contact Jonathan Vickery with any questions..

Q: When and how are funds released?

A: The first release for a grant year is made during the first month of the grant year. Remaining funds are released on a quarterly basis during the first month of the current quarter. Grant funds are released in pre-set installments throughout the grant year. IOLTA funds are sent to grantees by check or wire transfer, directly from the Foundation’s financial institution. To release BCLS and CVCLS funds, the Foundation must request that the Supreme Court of Texas release funds to a grantee’s account on file with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Due to the nature of the payment process, the receipt of BCLS and CVCLS funds often takes several days; deposits may not appear immediately. Grant funds are only released if all quarterly reports, budget revisions and other requested documents have been submitted to TAJF and approved by the Director of Grants.

Q: Do I need a budget revision?

A: You must submit a budget revision if the deviation you wish to make is "material." A material deviation will be deemed to have occurred in the event of the following: (1) anticipated or actual expenditures of grant funds are deemed materially greater or less than set forth in the approved budget, whether in total or by individual line item; (2) anticipated or actual expenditures of grant funds materially alter the ratio of Program to Administrative costs; (3) anticipated or actual expenditures of grant funds involve a disposition of property acquired with grant funds; or (4) anticipated or actual expenditures of grant funds involve a budget line item not approved by the Foundation. Budget amount increases or decreases will be deemed material when they meet either of the following:

  1. The individual deviation is in excess of $1,000 and exceeds the lesser of $10,000 or 10% of the grant for that grant period, or
  2. The accumulated total of all budget deviations since the beginning of the grant period exceeds the lesser of 10,000 or 10% of the grant for that grant period.

Please review information regarding budget revisions in Article VI, Budget Revisions and Program Costs of that funding source's General Grant Provisions. If you anticipate a material deviation from your approved budget, you may submit the revision at any time. A narrative explanation is also required with all budget revisions.

If your quarterly report indicates you are "overspent," or shows a material deviation, the Foundation will provide notice that you should consider submitting a budget revision. Please contact Jonathan Vickery with any questions.

Q: My organization anticipates that it will not spend its entire grant award. What do we do?

A: An organization receiving IOLTA or BCLS funds is eligible to carry over funds to the subsequent grant year, upon approval of the Foundation. Up to 10 percent of the grant award may be spent as carryover, within six months of the next grant year. Grantees must complete a timely Carryover Request Form, detailing the budget for remaining funds, which must be approved by the Foundation. These expenses are not added to the subsequent grant year's award, but reported separately as carryover from the previous grant year.  Funds exceeding 10 percent must be returned to the Foundation, except in extreme cases and with approval by the Foundation.  Request for Carryover Forms can be download from the website

The CVCLS program does not allow carryover of funds. CVCLS funds that remain uncommitted at termination of the grant period must be returned to the Foundation.


If you have a question that is not addressed here, please email Jonathan Vickery, Director of Grants.

 

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