At a time when funding for virtually every state agency is under siege, Connecticut’s legal aid offices are pleading with legislators to increase their funding by $8 million, reports the Hartford Courant. The state’s nonprofit legal agencies have been struggling with a dramatic drop in their primary source of funds – interest from money held in escrow by lawyers, largely from real estate transactions. Those revenues have shrunk by 80 percent, from $20 million in 2007 to $8 million last year to a projected $4 million this year.
The state’s three legal aid agencies – Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid and the New Haven Legal Assistance Association – have been forced to cut salaries and benefits, in some cases by 25 percent or more, to avoid major layoffs. Hundreds of clients and supporters, many wearing “Equal Access to Justice” stickers, packed a hearing of a key legislative committee this week at the state Capitol. “We are staring in the face of a classic tipping point,” said Hartford lawyer Timothy Fisher.