Aug 08


Long Lines Persist at DC Safety Net Program Centers

This post was written by 2018 Legal Aid summer interns Tracey Zhang, David Wasserstein, Jenny Jiao, and Shelby Ferguson

Among the most illuminating experiences we had during our internship this summer was the opportunity to make early morning visits to the Department of Human Services (DHS) Service Centers to gather data about the lines of residents waiting outside. The District’s most vulnerable residents wait in line at DHS Service Centers to secure access to vital safety net benefits such as food stamps, health insurance, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Residents can be turned away once Service Centers reach capacity, and therefore often get in line long before sunrise. They must wait outside, even in the summer heat or bitter cold of winter. Many of the waiting customers are elderly, living with disabilities, or accompanied by young children, factors that make long waits even more difficult.

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Aug 02


Generous Associates Campaign Shatters Record, Raises $2.15 Million for Legal Aid

Back in May when we sat down with our Co-Chairs to set the goal for this year’s Campaign, and we decided on a cool $2 million, we did it with the understanding that it was ambitious, and that we were comfortable with the possibility that we were misjudging how much we could raise. Well, we did misjudge it:

Friends, you have gone beyond our wildest expectations and raised $2.150 million for Legal Aid!!! Read more →

Jul 25


New York Enacts Provision Akin to DC’s Custodial Power of Attorney Statute

While the separation of undocumented immigrant parents from their children at the border has received significant media attention, those same immigrant families are still at risk once they settle in the U.S. Families continue to live in fear of deportation and separation. Significantly, the District and several states have legal mechanisms to allow undocumented parents to appoint caregivers and avoid detention or foster care for their children, in case of an emergency separation.

Beginning June 27, 2018, New York now has a process that allows parents at risk of immigration enforcement to plan for the safety of their children by choosing caregivers in the event of the parent’s detention or deportation. Read more →

Jul 24


Vulnerable Families Caught up in DC’s Public School Residency Fraud Investigation

A few months ago, the DC government decided to crack down on alleged residency fraud at a popular DC Public School, the Duke Ellington School of Arts, where many parents — desperate to find the best schooling option for their child — compete to gain their child’s admission. There appear to be many problems with the DC government’s actions, among them the way it handled the findings of its seemingly rash investigation. Families were accused of fraud, threatened with draconian penalties (for example, the government filed lawsuits seeking a combined $800,000 from two families alone), and sent notices without any explanation of the allegations or information about how they could appeal the cases. Read more →

Jul 23


Court of Appeals Ruling Could Ease Access to Safety Net Benefits in DC

On July 19, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued an important decision regarding the District of Columbia Department of Human Services’ (DHS) administration of the Program on Work, Empowerment, and Responsibility (POWER). Black v. District of Columbia Department of Human Services, No. 17-AA-5. (POWER is a public assistance program providing cash assistance to certain low- (and no-) income District residents unable to access other public benefit programs.) The POWER program is expressly intended, among other things, to provide benefits to parents who have to stay home to take care of their children. Read more →

Jul 12


DC Council’s Reversal On Eviction Protections Puts Tenants and Their Possessions at Risk

Earlier this week, the DC Council voted to repeal legislation it had unanimously passed just two weeks earlier that would have protected tenants and their belongings during and after evictions.

The Council had the option of maintaining, or even strengthening, that legislation – the Eviction Reform Emergency Amendment Act – which established a safe and orderly process for handling evictions and would have made the District a model jurisdiction for ensuring safe, dignified evictions. Instead, the Council took a “repeal and replace” approach that we are concerned puts tenants at significant risk during the time that this legislation will be in effect. Read more →

Jul 09



The Legal Aid Society urges Councilmembers to vote NO on the Eviction with Dignity Emergency Amendment Act of 2018 and the Eviction with Dignity Temporary Amendment Act of 2018 when they come up for a vote tomorrow, July 10. These misleadingly-named pieces of legislation, which would undo legislation that the Council passed less than two weeks ago, would harm the District’s low-income tenants by making it more likely that they would lose all of their possessions. If you are interested in protecting the District’s low-income tenants from these harmful bills, please contact your Councilmembers immediately to let them know that they should vote NO. Read more →

Jul 03


Barriers to Benefits

Why might a person with schizoaffective disorder, PTSD, major depression, and suicidal thoughts not be receiving Social Security disability benefits? A recent New York Times article noted a statistically significant decline in the number of people receiving Social Security disability benefits last year. Recent coverage of this issue in both the Washington Post and on National Public Radio observed similar trends. Read more →

Jun 29


Legal Aid Negotiates Settlement for Public Housing Tenants Overcharged for Rent

Legal Aid announced today that it has reached a settlement, potentially worth over $265,000, for approximately 70 public housing tenants overcharged for rent. The proposed settlement would resolve a federal class action lawsuit Legal Aid filed in November 2015 alleging that the owners and managers of a D.C. public housing development had miscalculated utility allowances to which their tenants are entitled. The settlement, which has been submitted to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, would provide monetary relief to all class members for past rent overcharges and also would reduce tenant rents over the next two years by increasing utility allowance amounts. Read more →

Jun 19


Kelly Voss Recognized for Extraordinary Pro Bono Commitment

Today Legal Aid is presenting its Making Justice Real Pro Bono Award to Kelly Voss, Pro Bono Counsel at Covington & Burling. The Making Justice Real Pro Bono Award recognizes attorneys who have provided outstanding pro bono service through individual representation and/or leadership in facilitating such representation by their colleagues.

Kelly Voss directs Covington’s pro bono program, facilitating meaningful pro bono engagement by her colleagues and collaborating with nonprofit organizations to find innovative ways to connect the firm’s resources to important needs in our local and global communities. Covington’s Washington, DC office has over 500 lawyers and a strong history of giving back. Read more →