Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assembly Ways and Means Committee Chair Herman D. Farrell, Jr., and Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Helene Weinstein today announced that the SFY 2009-2010 budget includes hard-fought restorations to ensure access to quality legal services for all New Yorkers. The legislators emphasized that especially during a time of economic hardship, civil and criminal legal services must be available to those who cannot afford them.
"For more than a decade the Assembly has lead the fight to ensure access to critical legal services for low income New Yorkers. Now more than ever, New Yorkers facing eviction and foreclosure or in need of help getting unemployment benefits depend on legal services," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "The additional funds will significantly assist legal services organizations throughout the state who are dealing with a surge in demand brought about by the foreclosure crisis and the broader economic downturn."
"The Assembly has always been interested in helping New Yorkers obtain counsel. As we face this global economic downturn, it is extremely important to preserve funds to assist our citizens in receiving a level of quality services," said Farrell (D-Manhattan). "We worked to make sure that budget cuts did not fall disproportionately on the neediest New Yorkers, and this was an area we fought hard to preserve."
"Access to civil legal services has always been a priority of the Assembly Majority," said Weinstein (D-Brooklyn). "The Assembly held hearings earlier this year which demonstrated that in difficult economic times there is an even greater need for legal services in the court system. I am happy that the state's commitment to civil justice has not fallen victim to the State's budget difficulties. The testimony at our hearing showed how civil legal service programs save the state money through reductions in foster care and the timely acquisition of federal benefits."
Civil legal services items included in the SFY 2009-2010 budget: