Streams

Fund for Free Legal Aid in NY Drying Up

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A fund that pays for free legal services for poor New Yorkers is quickly drying up.

A state Senate panel held a hearing about it yesterday, and heard testimony from Legal Aid clients like Terri Bush. She says a debt buyer sued her for allegedly not paying a credit card bill, and the case was ultimately dismissed.

"Had the legal aid society not been there to represent my family, me and my family would be in a much more financially precarious situation. The debt buyer company would have taken everything we had," Bush says.

The state's fund for legal services currently has $8-million, compared to $31 million last year. The fund draws revenues from interest on attorneys' escrow accounts. The state Senate says when the economy is down, there are fewer escrow accounts. Plus, low interest rates mean the accounts earn less.

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