Making Justice RealThe Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
Holiday Reading on Poverty Reduction and Legal Services
Civil Right to Counsel: The Empire Justice Center, a civil legal services program in New York has called on the State to create a pilot civil Gideon program along the lines recently implemented in California. If this is a trend, it is very good news.
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Tom Perez gives a 60 day report to the American Constitution Society. After 8 years of turmoil, a strong civil rights advocate now heads the Civil Rights Division at justice. Read about the efforts to rebuild the Division and plans for federal enforcement of the civil rights laws. In addition to being a civil rights leader, Tom has always been a friend of the anti-poverty movement.
Legal Momentum Finds that TANF Case Loads Decreased During the Recession. In a recent report, Legal Momentum found that TANF case loads decreased in 22 states between December 2007 and March 2009. In the District 300 fewer families – a decline of 2.6% — were on TANF at the end of the time period, despite significant increases in poverty and unemployment. These results, while not explained in the report, are disturbing.
The Constitutionality of Health Care Reform. Conservative opponents of health care reform have argued that requiring those who can afford insurance to purchase it is unconstitutional. The American Constitution Society has published an issues brief that thoroughly debunks these claims.
The Recovery Act has had an Impact on Poverty: Despite concerns expressed by anti-poverty advocates (including in this blog), there is evidence that the Recovery Act has made a difference for people who are struggling to survive at the bottom of the economic scale. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found that more than 6 million people moved above the federal poverty line and the poverty of 32 million was made less severe by the Recovery Act. (It is important to note that the federal poverty line is a poor measure for adequate income to meet basic needs. Millions of families are not “poor” for guidelines purposes, but cannot afford adequate housing, food or other basics.) It remains true that Wall Street bankers did very well by stimulus, but it is comforting to see that it has helped those who need it most as well.