News Release

Texas Access to Justice Foundation 
March 24, 2020
 

Statement from Betty Balli Torres, Executive Director, Texas Access to Justice Foundation
On COVID-19 and the Impact on Legal Aid in Texas

 

AUSTIN, Texas––The following statement was issued today by Betty Balli Torres, executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation:

“As we all deal with unprecedented changes in our daily lives and take care of our health and basic needs, our legal aid providers in Texas are also meeting emergency legal needs of disadvantaged Texans impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Low-income Texans, and many Texans not previously eligible for legal aid, are experiencing the loss of their livelihood requiring legal assistance with unemployment claims, landlord-tenant problems, and consumer credit. These challenges inevitably affect family stability, and exacerbate mental and physical health needs.

Unfortunately, the number of Texans eligible for legal services will likely exponentially grow in this uncertain economy. One of the measures taken recently to help our U.S. economy includes the lowering of the Federal Funds Target Rate to zero. This rate affects the interest revenue generated for one of the major funding sources for legal aid – the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program. The loss of IOLTA revenue will have a significant, negative impact on grant funding the Texas Access to Justice Foundation provides to legal aid programs.

We anticipate an annual loss of nearly 75% in IOLTA funding or approximately $1 million each month. This funding provides critical access to legal help for people to protect their livelihoods, their health and their families. We currently fund 37 legal aid organizations, law school clinics and pro bono organizations that provide vital legal aid services throughout to families who cannot afford it; including, veterans, older Texans, survivors of sexual assault, mothers with children, Texans with disabilities, and others.

Texas Legal Aid programs are working hard to meet emergency needs of those who may lose their jobs, homes, access to health care, or experience domestic violence. Legal aid is a safety net that keeps our fellow Texans from going over the edge; without it, they might never recover, even when the economy improves.”

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The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (www.teajf.org), created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the leading state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The organization is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to more than 150,000 Texas families each year.

 

Contact: Kimberly Schmitt
512-320-0099, ext. 104
kschmitt@teajf.org

 

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