CHARLESTON – Legal Aid of West Virginia recently received formal notice from its federal funder that Congress will cut its federal funding to legal services by nearly 15 percent in 2012.
Legal Aid Executive Director Adrienne Worthy said Congress is cutting 14.8 percent of Legal Aid's funding, which is $478,000.
Combined with the cuts absorbed in 2011, the Legal Aid program dollars will be reduced by more than $625,000 in just two years.
Federal funding is Legal Aid's biggest source of funding, Worthy said.
"In 2011, the budget was cut as much as possible without cutting services, so we were as lean as we could possibly go," Worthy said. "If we are not able to find a new source of funding, we will have to cut our staff, which will cut our services to those who need us."
Worthy said they are still trying to figure out exactly how much will need to be cut, but it could be roughly 10 percent.
"Everyone is important, and the less staff we have, the less service we can provide to those who really need it," Worthy said. "It is key for there to be a healthy Legal Aid program because it is so important to the justice system."
Worthy said they know that people in the Legislature, the courts and administrations care deeply about Legal Aid and they are hopeful that they can come up with a resolution soon.
"People come to Legal Aid in times of crisis -- when someone needs help because of domestic violence, they are homeless or they are disabled in some way -- and we help those people in the community because they have nowhere else to go," Worthy said. "Low-income people need access to the courts and people who cannot afford an attorney turn to Legal Aid for that help."
In November, Congress passed an emergency spending bill that cut into areas such as agriculture, commerce, justice and science. Because of the bill, layoffs for Legal Aid are to be expected, Worthy said.
Legal Aid is a non-profit law firm that focuses on low-income citizens and vulnerable people. Legal Aid only deals with civil cases, not criminal cases.
Worthy said while Legal Aid is not a government agency, federal government funding is still the core funding for the agency.