Bar News - June 15, 2016
NH Bar Foundation: Foundation Grants at Work: Dollars Making a Difference
The Bar Foundation IOLTA grants and Justice Grants support the charitable aims of the Bar Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the NH Bar Association, in many ways. Here’s a look at the work of two of the foundation’s grant recipients.
Reduced Fee Referral: Closing the Legal Access Gap
For more than three decades, the NHBA Reduced-Fee Referral Program has been the primary resource for providing access to legal representation to the “working poor.” The Reduced-Fee Referral Program is receiving $3,500 from the IOLTA funds this year – one of the smallest grants made – and its information and referral services help hundreds of clients each year. The Reduced-Fee program is operated by the NH Bar’s legal services department, with services provided by attorneys who volunteer to accept cases at a reduced hourly rate. The program is largely supported by the NH Bar Association, supplemented by income from a $25 referral fee paid by clients and the $3,500 IOLTA grant for the coming year.
Reduced-Fee Referral assists families and individuals of modest financial means – those whose incomes are too high for them to qualify for free legal services, but too low for them to be able to afford full-price legal representation, as well as those whose legal problems are not addressed by the civil legal aid agencies in New Hampshire. Without this kind of access, many of these citizens would be left to forgo their legal rights altogether, or fend for themselves as self-represented litigants.
To qualify for reduced-fee services, most applicants must have incomes less than 275 percent of the federal poverty level. (There is a higher limit set for clients in foreclosure-related cases.) For a family of two, for example, the income ceiling is $43,808 per year. During fiscal year 2017, the Reduced-Fee Referral Program expects to refer between 850 to 900 lower-income families and individuals to panel attorneys for low-cost legal services that would otherwise be unavailable to them. In addition, the program anticipates serving another several hundred callers with legal information.
Keeping Teens Out of Trouble in Rochester
The Justice Grants program, which provides small grants funded by interest on endowed funds, recently made a $2,004 grant to Rochester Teen Night, an activity run by the Rochester Recreation Department in collaboration with the Rochester Police Department and Bridging the Gap, a federally funded anti-drug abuse program serving the city.
Rochester Teen Night, held on the first Saturday of the month during the school year, offers youngsters ages 12 to 17 a free and safe evening of sports, crafts, a DJ, dancing, free pizza and other fun, substance-free activities, along with the opportunity to interact with responsible adults, including police officers and a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. Lauren Colanto, of the Rochester Recreation Department, said 200 to 250 teens attended each of last year’s events.
Teen Night, which has been held annually since 2010, has coincided with a 38 percent drop in juvenile offenses through 2014, which organizers partially attribute to the connections and interactions the teens make with adults in the community, including school resource officers who attend the events.
The Teen Night grant was made through the Judge Richard F. Cooper Fund, which benefits disadvantaged children and youth in the Rochester area.