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Bar News - May 13, 2011

President's Perspective: NH Legal Assistance Brings Federal Money to New Hampshire


Marilyn Billings McNamara
All state funding for NH Legal Assistance (NHLA) was removed from the New Hampshire House’s proposed budget. This represents a $1.74 million reduction in NHLA’s operating budget for each year of the 2012-13 biennium, which starts on July 1 of this year. The budget is now being reviewed by the Senate (as of press time).

The provision of civil legal services to low-income citizens is a core value in New Hampshire. The reduction in funds proposed by the New Hampshire legislature will devastate the fine programs we have developed and cause harm to those who look to legal services for protection. Without this funding, how else will we assure that every subject of this state may obtain rights and justice freely, completely and without any denial?

The impact of these cuts is wide reaching and may ultimately result in lost savings that the state would realize with a fully funded NHLA.

John Tobin, executive director of NHLA, provided some information about the positive economic impact that NHLA services have on state and local levels:
1. NHLA Saves Local and State Tax Dollars
New Hampshire Legal Assistance saves state and local tax dollars by gaining federal benefits and child support for New Hampshire families. Have a look:

Federal Benefits and Child/Family Support Gained by NHLA Advocacy
July 1, 2009 – December 27, 2010

Case Type
Specific Case Category
Benefits Gained
State and Local Tax Dollars Saved
Family Child Support
in Domestic Violence Cases
$40,728 • TANF
• Town and City Welfare
Health Medicare
(All Federal Dollars)
$904,542 • Medicaid
• Town and City Welfare
Income Maintenance Social Security and SSI
(All Federal Dollars)
$3,558,459 • APTD (State Funded Disability Benefit)
• Town and City Welfare
Total $4,503,729

At this rate, NHLA will bring in more than $6 million in benefits and support for NH residents during the current 2009-2011 biennium, nearly double the total two-year appropriation of $3,480,000. In most cases these benefits and support payments last for many years, so the benefits to our clients and NH taxpayers will continue year after year.

2. NHLA’s Efforts Boost the Local Economies
The benefits we win flow directly and immediately into the local economy when our clients use them to pay their rent/mortgage and utilities, buy groceries, pay doctor and hospital bills, and buy clothes and other necessities for their families. Every day, NHLA offices across the state hear from desperate people who are facing urgent civil legal problems precipitated by unemployment and financial uncertainty, such as foreclosure or eviction from their homes, domestic violence, loss of health insurance and resulting medical debt.

3. NHLA’s Record of Bipartisan Legislative Support
With a 40-year history of providing high quality and efficient civil legal services, NHLA is highly regarded in the legal and social service communities across the state. Our program is managed frugally, with many years of flawless audits and uniformly positive and enthusiastic reviews from the United Ways and other funding sources. Since 1997 we have received strong bipartisan support for our state funding.
Access to justice is closely woven into our society’s fabric and rightly so; a just society enjoys peace, prosperity and opportunity for all. We are reminded by our constitution, [Art.] 37, that we must expect our lawgivers to demonstrate "constant adherence to justice" as being, along with other social virtues, "indispensably necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty and good government." I couldn’t have said it any better.

Please contact your state senator to urge them to preserve funding for NHLA. Find your legislator’s contact information.

NHLAP: A confidential Independent Resource

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