The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation Wednesday that would cut funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in Fiscal Year 2016 by $75 million. The measure passed by a vote of 242-183.
The Commerce, Justice, Science & Related Agencies (CJS) FY 2016 Appropriations bill allocates $300 million for LSC, a 20 percent reduction from last year.
“We are disappointed that in the face of enormous unmet need for essential civil legal services among low-income Americans and other issues affecting access to justice, the House has voted to cut LSC funding by 20 percent to levels not seen since 1999,” said LSC board chair John G. Levi and Frank B. Strickland, LSC board chair during the George W. Bush administration. “We recognize that this is a time of austerity, but the foundation of our country and the integrity of its legal system are built on the concept that everyone is entitled to fair and equal access to justice, irrespective of their economic means. Because this is a core American value, we are hopeful that significant additional funds will be provided to LSC by the Senate or in a negotiated budget agreement later in the year.”
LSC estimates the funding cuts will force local programs to lay off more than 1,000 staff members, including 430 attorneys, and close 85 legal offices nationwide. This would result in 350,000 fewer people served and 150,000 fewer cases closed each year.
The bill passed after lawmakers turned back an amendment from Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) to cut LSC’s funding by an additional $25 million, with the money to be reallocated to the FBI budget. The amendment failed by a vote of 263-163.
The Senate will mark up the FY 2016 CJS Appropriations bill in subcommittee on June 10.