Legal Aid of NC to close offices, reduce staff and
services, affecting thousands in NC
August 5, 2011 Media
Legal Aid of North Carolina, the largest provider of
legal services to poor and working families in the State, announced
today that it would close three of its branch offices and
significantly reduce staff and services around the State due to
severe funding cuts.
Cuts made this year to state and federal legislative appropriations
amounted to annual reductions of more than $2M.
With such substantial cuts to its core funding, Legal Aid of NC
(LANC) could not avoid the closings and the elimination of about
thirty staff positions. The LANC offices located
in Smithfield, Boone and
immediately will stop taking new cases and will close entirely by
the end of September. LANC offices in Rocky Mount,
and Sylva also are affected.
The closings will affect households in Johnston,
Harnett, Sampson, Allegheny, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes,
Vance and Yancey
Counties. More than
100,000 households--including than 30,000 children--are eligible for
the services of Legal Aid of NC in these counties.
The offices in Smithfield, Boone and Henderson annually have served about 2,000
households in these counties. Clients in the
affected areas will have to travel to other offices, find and pay a
local attorney, or rely on getting help through Legal Aid's
toll-free helpline (1-866-219-5262).
"At a time of tremendous financial stress on working families, the
loss of these services and the economic opportunities they create is
another setback to those trying to lift themselves out of poverty,"
said Celeste Harris, a Winston-Salem attorney and the chair of the
LANC board of directors. "We've been holding the line on
hiring and salaries already for two years while trying to keep up
with the increasing need during the economic downturn."
As a nonprofit, Legal Aid of NC relies for its funding on a
combination of grants, contributions and appropriations from over
eighty different sources, including government, to support its
statewide work. Three of its biggest sources -- a
state legislative appropriation, an appropriation from Congress and
the NC IOLTA program -- have all reduced funding for legal services
programs. The NC General Assembly and Congress,
of course, are dealing with deficits of their own, and legal
services programs have suffered a budget fate similar to other
government-funded programs that serve poor and working families.
The NC IOLTA
program is administered by the NC State Bar and receives its funding
from the interest lawyers earn on the client trust accounts they are
required to maintain. A large share of this
interest generally comes from large commercial real estate
transactions, a business that has precipitously declined in this
economy over the last two years. NC IOLTA funding
has declined by over thirty percent during this time.
"After these recent legislative cuts, there was no place else for us
to go," explained Executive Director George Hausen. "Closing
some offices and cutting services was the only option left to us."
Legal Aid of North
is a non-profit organization with an attorney staff of about 150
lawyers who are experts in legal matters involving the basic needs
of low- and moderate-income households. These 150
lawyers serve the over 3.2 million people in
who are eligible for these services under the federal poverty
guidelines. These lawyer go to all 100 counties
and assist more than 40,000 households each year by providing legal
representation, advice and education to those with significant legal
problems. The primary focus of its work is on
defending the economic and social safety net by preventing
homelessness or displacement, preventing domestic violence,
safeguarding household income, defending against consumer scams and
assisting seniors and veterans.
"We know private lawyers in these communities will step up and
volunteer," said Tom Berkau, a lawyer from
and a member of the LANC board of directors. "Legal Aid
lawyers however expertly handle hundreds of these cases and provide
services that our volunteers will not be able to replace."
Aid of North Carolina (LANC) is
a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in
civil matters to eligible, low-income people in all 100 counties in
North Carolina through its 24 geographically located
offices in North Carolina. For
additional information about LANC, visit LANC's website,
George Hausen (Executive Director, LANC), Raleigh, NC,
Celeste Harris (Chair, LANC Board of Directors),
The materials contained on this website are for information and
educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.
Also please note that Legal Aid of North Carolina does not provide
legal assistance by E-mail. Contact your Legal Aid of North Carolina
office or a private attorney if you need to speak to an attorney
regarding your particular situation.
See our complete
Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm
that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income
people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove
legal barriers to economic opportunity.