KEY POINTS

  • New York's impoverished have more representation than in other states
  • Some COVID-19 hot spots have one lawyer for every 20,000 poor people
  • Businesses closing due to coronavirus will make things worse

The $50 million grant to the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) as part of the Covid-19 stimulus package may offer little comfort to the country's poor reeling under the effects of the lockdown. The corporation that distributes grant funds to states for civil legal aid for the poor had sought $100 million in response to the outbreak. 
The novel coronavirus that has brought economic activity to a standstill could overwhelm legal help for America’s poverty stricken, Roll Call reported. Civil legal aid groups help the poor navigate the legal system to fight unfair evictions and foreclosures, get domestic abuse protective orders, obtain unemployment or unpaid wages, access health care, respond to scammers or write wills.
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Corp Executive Director Laura Tuggle said her organization is helping a parent who is being denied partial custody of a child. The other parent is reportedly using the state's shelter-in-place order as a reason not to follow a joint custody agreement.
In New York, there are fewer than three civil legal aid lawyers for every 10,000 people who live under 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, the Legal Services Corporation Center at the Fordham Law School's Justice Index data shows. That level is $25,520 a year for one person and $52,400 for a family of four in 2020.
Still that’s more attorneys than every other state and far above the national average. COVID-19 hot spots such as California, Texas, Florida, Colorado, Louisiana and Ohio have fewer than one legal aid lawyer for every 20,000 people in poverty.
The situation is expected to worsen as businesses close for social distancing, contributing to an increase in the number of people with legal problems and an increase in the number of people who qualify as low-income.