April 4, 2012; Source: WSLS

The Virginia Legal Aid Society (VLAS), beset by federal budget cuts and increasing calls for service, went to their community on Wednesday to ask which cuts might make the most sense and whether they can see any other steps that should be taken. The state’s legal aid society has taken a cut of approximately 20 percent in the past two and a half years, said VLAS Executive Director David Neumeyer, and in the coming year it faces a shortfall of $500,000 on a $2.6 million budget.

Neumeyer told attendees at the community meeting that their guidance would be important in figuring out the organization’s near future, and that forums and surveys will be used in the nonprofit’s five-year strategic planning process. Attendees named foreclosures, utilities, applying for disability, domestic disputes, landlord issues and household budgeting as problems with which they needed continuing legal help.

Just a few days ago, NPQ covered the results of a survey of nonprofits, many of which were feeling the squeeze of this difficult period. Of course, legal aid organizations are especially hard hit because while all agree that their services are more intensely required in this time of continuing financial stress on the less wealthy end of Main Street, legal aid programs all over the country are suffering from greatly reduced funding from Lawyer’s Trust Fund accounts as well as federal cuts. Taking the problem to the community the cuts will effect is likely a very wise move. It will surface the very real consequences of losing these resources and give the community time to consider what they may be able to do to help. –Ruth McCambridge