LEAP Coalition Letter to Governor Kathy Hochul: Budget ‘sweep’ of funds to help low-income people access justice would harm New Yorkers

Legislative, News, Press Release

Image shows a NYLPI sign on the steps of New York's Tweed Courthouse in Lower Manhattan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Alex Dery Snider
[email protected]
202 641-5124

Budget ‘sweep’ of funds to help low-income people access justice would harm New Yorkers, 50+ legal services providers tell the governor

Governor called on to rescind the sweep in the 30-day amendments

A letter was delivered to Governor Hochul today from the New York civil legal services community calling on her to undo the sweep of IOLA funds.

Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget proposes to remove $100 Million from the IOLA Fund and add it into the general fund this year.  IOLA is a dedicated fiduciary fund derived solely from attorney escrow accounts – it is not taxpayer money.  The interest from the attorney escrow accounts is earmarked exclusively to support civil legal services programs in New York State. This move by the Governor sets a terrible precedent for future misuse of the IOLA fund and decreases the stability of core funding that is needed to provide New Yorkers with Access to Justice.

As grantees of the IOLA Fund, the members of the New York Legal Services Coalition, the Legal Services Access Alliance, and the LEAP Coalition respectfully request that Governor Hochul issue a 30-day amendment to the FY25 Executive Budget rescinding the proposed transfer of $100 million from the IOLA Fund to the State General Fund.

Members of the three coalitions represent every county in the State of New York and include  programs funded by the federal Legal Services Corporation, as well large non-LSC programs, and smaller specialty programs for vulnerable populations.  Our members provide direct legal services to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers each year for issues such as mortgage foreclosure, eviction defense, domestic violence, immigration, senior scams, and child abuse.  Our clients rely upon us to protect their rights and we rely on sufficient and reliable funding from the IOLA fund to represent our clients.

In addition, the New York State Bar Association put out a statement in opposition to the sweep, saying the funding “rightly belongs to New Yorkers who are about to lose their homes, who are seeking lifesaving medical treatment, who need help recovering from crushing debt or are facing other life-changing civil legal challenges.”

The IOLA Fund Board of Trustees also released a statement in opposition to the sweep, noting that the funds “must be used exclusively for the provision of civil legal services for low-income New Yorkers, in accordance with its mission and governing statute” and that it “believes that the Governor lacks the legal authority to transfer funds from IOLA to the General Fund.”

About the New York Legal Services Coalition

The New York Legal Services Coalition is a statewide association that represents the interests of civil legal services organizations and the communities they serve. Our members collectively provide services in the areas of family law, housing, immigration, and public benefits across all 62 counties of New York State.

About LEAP

The LEAP Coalition, established in 2004, is a collective of 17 civil legal service organizations that work collaboratively to increase the availability of quality civil legal services for low-income persons in New York City. The LEAP Coalition specifically recognizes the need to maintain community-based service delivery. LEAP supports diversity and innovation in organizational models, delivery systems, and methodology. LEAP participates in lobbying and advocacy, training, and technical assistance activities to support its aims.

About the Legal Services Alliance

The Legal Services Access Alliance represents the seven largest providers of free civil legal services outside of New York City. We collectively serve every county outside of New York City and employ nearly one thousand legal services workers. We provide comprehensive civil legal services in a broad spectrum of practice areas to low-income New Yorkers in issues impacting the basic necessities of life.


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