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Statement from Donna C. Cuneo, Executive Director, Louisiana Bar Foundation On COVID-19 and the Impact on Civil Legal Aid in Louisiana

 

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana – The following statement was issued today by Donna C. Cuneo, Executive Director of the Louisiana Bar Foundation (LBF):

Due to the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on our state, more Louisianans are facing life-changing challenges and need support from our civil legal aid network. Civil legal aid is a vital component of the public response to and recovery from the current public health crisis. Civil legal aid is free legal advice, representation or other legal assistance provided to low-income and vulnerable people who cannot otherwise afford legal help.

The economic hardship caused by business closures and illness will create conflicts only the civil justice system can resolve, like:

o          Missed rent payments leading to eviction notices

o          Disputes over medical and consumer debt

o          People being wrongly denied public benefits that can keep their families afloat

o        Increased incidents of domestic violence due to quarantines

The major funding source to support families through this crisis and in the aftermath is at risk.  The LBF Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program is a significant funding source for the Louisiana civil legal aid network. The attempt to help the U.S. economy by lowering the Federal Funds Target Rate to zero will dramatically impact the revenue generated by the LBF IOLTA Program. Civil legal problems will spike in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, especially for those already struggling to make ends meet. As the number of Louisiana citizens eligible for civil legal aid increases, this funding will diminish.

LBF has a robust network of well-established partnerships with more than 70 legal aid providers across the state’s 64 parishes who are working hard to meet emergency civil legal needs. The inability to resolve these problems can tear families apart or drive people and an entire community further into poverty.  LBF stands with our community partners who are working even harder as more families need the help of Louisiana’s civil legal aid safety net to recover from the impact of this pandemic.

The Louisiana Bar Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) entity organized under the state of Louisiana.



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