New York’s leading public defender and civil legal service providers called for increased funding in the City budget on the steps of City Hall this morning, highlighting the dire impact underfunding has wrought on their ability to meet the needs of low-income New Yorkers.
Not only have chronic underfunding and contracting issues led to widespread attrition, but if unaddressed this year, New Yorkers will be further marginalized and disconnected from critical services, reinforcing bias in the legal system and eroding public safety.
“The rights of New Yorkers are in jeopardy if civil legal services providers and public defenders are not adequately funded,” said Lisa Rivera, president and CEO of New York Legal Assistance Group. “For New Yorkers experiencing poverty and marginalization, especially in our BIPOC communities, our services are not optional: they are the difference between a secure home and homelessness, between having food on their tables and going hungry, between building a life free of violence and being forced back into danger, and much more. We cannot continue to meet the needs of our clients while the City chronically underfunds our work and delays our contracts. The City must fairly fund civil and defender legal services in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget so that the rights of New Yorkers are protected.”
Citywide Civil Legal Services Budget Demands
Dozens of civil legal services providers who administer critical housing, eviction, immigration and other related work are calling on the City to provide at least $300 million in increased funding in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget to:
- Increase all civil legal services providers’ baselined contracts;
- Increase providers’ capacity to represent all eligible people who come through New York City Housing Court;
- Fund salary increases for staff to address unprecedented attrition and to attract prospective hires;
- Bridge the funding shortfall that undercut providers’ ability to administer essential civil legal services work.