Bar News - March 18, 2015
NH Bar Foundation News: ‘Conservative’ Grant Level Set for IOLTA Program
By: Dan Wise
Based on current IOLTA income, the total amount to be granted to New Hampshire’s core civil legal aid organizations for FY 2016 will be about $800,000, down from $960,000 last year. The NH Bar Foundation’s work with banking partners has resulted in about $450,000 additional IOLTA dollars each year since establishing and promoting Leadership Bank relationships.
Foundation Chair Jack Middleton said revenue for the current year is coming in lower than expected for a variety of reasons, including slower business activity and decisions by some financial institutions to lower the interest rates offered on IOLTA accounts. Also the amount granted last year included the use of reserve funds to boost grant levels.
Middleton said the 16 percent decline in the total amount to be granted will be conveyed to the IOLTA Grants Committee, which reviews applications and makes recommendations to the Bar Foundation Board of Directors. Current grantees, including the Disability Rights Center, NH Legal Assistance, the NH Bar Association’s Pro Bono Referral Program, and the Legal Advice and Referral Center, are being informed of the lower amount so that they can adjust their funding requests accordingly.
Middleton said that although the overall economy is improving and speculation continues that interest rates will rise, these trends are not yet a reality. “If returns on IOLTA really pick up next year, we might have some additional funds. But we have to take a conservative approach at this time,” he said.
There are encouraging signs on the IOLTA scene, however. A new federal law allows credit unions to insure lawyers’ trust account deposits, which widens the choices lawyers will have for where to open their trust and IOLTA accounts.
The NH Bar Foundation worked with the Cooperative Credit Union Association, which represents credit unions in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, on an educational program held March 4 to explain the workings of lawyers trust accounts and the IOLTA program.
Several credit unions are expected to announce their participation in IOLTA soon. At the training earlier this month, Bar Foundation board members provided information about the special recognition given to those financial institutions that pay above-market interest rates on IOLTA accounts.
Also, funds allotted to NH foreclosure prevention efforts through a nationwide settlement by the Bank of America are expected to be received by the Bar Foundation very soon, according to Lisha Brosseau, the Bar Foundation’s coordinator, who attended a briefing on the settlement. The amount will be at least $200,000 and will be earmarked for foreclosure relief programs by legal services programs.
In other action, the Bar Foundation agreed to donate $1,000 to Milford High School to assist with travel expenses for the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution national competition in Washington, DC, in April. Milford High School won the right to participate at nationals during the state finals of the We the People competition held in January. The civics education program and competition are sponsored by the New Hampshire Bar Association.