Legal Services Programs Threatened by Devastation of Trust Funds

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November 14, 2010; Source: Palm Beach Post |NPQ has been covering stories like this one from the Palm Beach Post, state by state for a while. At a time when Florida’s legal aid offices are pressed by high demand (due to such stuff as predatory lending, benefits rejections, etc.) one of their key sources of funding—money from the Florida Bar Foundation—has all but dried up.

The foundation’s budget largely comes from a program called Interest on Trust Accounts, or IOTA. This story in the Post reveals that in Florida IOTA has been decimated as a result of very low interest rates and a slow down in the housing market.

Until recently the IOTA money made up approximately 30 percent of funding for legal services programs across Florida. But where the IOTA funds in 2006 and 2007 totaled $44 million, it totals $5.4 million in 2009 and 2010. Access to legal services is a key component of a just community and important to the work of many other nonprofits in each community. This problem should be the business of more than just the legal services organizations—Ruth McCambridge