Currently, the Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation grants approximately $11.8 million per year to 38 nonprofit organizations throughout Texas that provide direct civil legal services to poor and low-income Texans. The services include advice and representation in matters such as housing, public benefits and protection from domestic violence. The new funding will be granted during the Foundation's annual grant cycles.
To qualify for legal aid, an individual cannot earn more than about $12,000 per year. Texas legal aid organizations close 95,000 cases each year. However, due to limited resources, legal aid assists only a fraction of those who need help.
"Texas ranks 40th in the nation in per capita funding for legal aid," Betty Balli Torres, Texas Equal Access for Justice Foundation executive director, said in response to news of the appropriation. "That is unacceptable. The new funding will allow us to help thousands more people with their basic civil legal needs. We commend the Texas Legislature, particularly Rep. Sylvester Turner and Sen. Robert Duncan for their acknowledgement of the desperate need for legal aid funding."
Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, and Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, were instrumental in ensuring the funds would be designated for civil legal aid.
The Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation (www.teajf.org), created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the largest state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The organization is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to approximately 95,000 Texans each year.