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Legal aid layoffs expected

In the wake of federal budget cuts, legal aid officials in Virginia say they face layoffs of up to 20 lawyers and 10 support staff without additional public or private relief.

The expected cuts for legal aid agencies that now employ about 125 lawyers result from Congressional budget slashing. Grants to state legal aid programs were reduced 15 percent this fall. That action followed a four percent cut earlier in the year. Together, the federal belt tightening resulted in a $1.2-million loss for the Legal Services Corp. of Va. and its nine regional programs, the LSCV reports.

LSCV executive director Mark D. Braley said legal aid supporters plan to ask the General Assembly for state money to replace the lost federal dollars.  In the meantime, he said, the legal aid system is “on triage.”

Braley compared the operation to an emergency room. “People who are losing the roof over their head or can’t afford to feed their children or are facing domestic violence are moved to the front of the line,” he said in a news release.

Virginia legal aid programs already have reduced staff through attrition, frozen wages and cut retirement benefits, LSCV said.

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