The recession has crippled funding for legal aid even as it has bumped up the number of people requesting representation, McClatchy reports. Though the federal government ramped up spending this year—and plans an even bigger increase for 2010—state funding and private donations have cratered, forcing legal aid to turn away about half of the 2 million valid cases it receives this year.
The recession also stole away another traditional source of funding: interest from lawyer-administered client funds, which provided $112 million last year. The Fed’s decision to lower rates to combat the economic crisis is expected to hobble that revenue source this year. “When those interest rates dropped,” an official said, “they took legal aid with them.” About 51 million Americans qualify for assistance, up 11 million since 2007.