News Release

Texas Access to Justice Foundation 
June 16, 2021
 

Texas Legislature Provides Funding for the State's Legal Aid System

 AUSTIN, Texas––  As the 87th session of the Texas Legislature closed, $18.78 million in state general revenue was appropriated for civil legal aid for disadvantaged Texans. Additionally, a new $2.5 million exceptional item was approved for civil legal needs stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, along with $5 million to help Texans manage legal issues created by the opioid crisis. The funding will be administered by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation for the biennium 2021-23.

“Helping struggling Texans obtain assistance with civil legal matters is not just necessary for our democracy to thrive, it’s the right thing to do,” Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, said. “We thank our legislators for supporting our efforts to increase funding for legal services, especially following the trying past year. Legal aid is fundamental to ensuring justice for all citizens of this great state.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, requests for legal help by eligible Texans has increased by as much as 35%, most notably in cases involving evictions and foreclosures, domestic violence and employment issues. While COVID-19 pushed many already vulnerable Texans further into financial and physical danger, it also caused many to have to seek legal aid for the first time. The statewide legal aid website, TexasLawHelp.org, has seen a historic increase in searches for legal information––including an almost 1,500% increase in web traffic for unemployment help.

As part of a statewide opioid settlement, the additional $5 million will enable legal aid providers to help Texans impacted by addiction with a broad range of civil legal issues; including health benefits, child support and custody, guardianship, domestic violence, housing, employment and others.

“We thank the Legislature for their bi-partisan support of civil legal in Texas,” said Deborah Hankinson, Chair of the Board of Texas Access to Justice Foundation.  “We particularly acknowledge Senator Joan Huffman, Representative Mary Gonzalez and Representative Justin Holland for their work on these critical issues facing legal aid clients.”

While legal aid currently helps more than 140,000 Texas families each year, only about 10% of the essential legal needs of disadvantaged Texans are being met due to a lack of resources. Legal aid helps spouses and children of domestic abuse; elderly wrongly denied life-sustaining prescriptions; veterans denied critical medical care, disability and other benefits; survivors of sexual assault and families who have lost their homes. To qualify for legal aid, an individual cannot earn more than $16,100 per year. A family of four must not earn more than $33,125 per year. This effort is crucial as civil legal aid is a vital component of the public response to and recovery from the pandemic.

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The Texas Access to Justice Foundation, created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the largest 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 140,000 Texas families each year. For more information, please visit: www.tajf.org.

 


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

 

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