The EJC advocates for increased public funding for civil legal aid programs at the federal, state, and local levels.

State Advocacy

Civil legal aid has been a key part of our state’s front-line response to COVID-19. In the 2021 legislative session, EJC advocates raised their voices for continued funding for emergency services responding to increased client needs due to the pandemic.

Bipartisan state leaders approved full funding to continue the Office of Civil Legal Aid’s investment in COVID-19 response services, including:

  • Defending residents from eviction and foreclosure
  • Securing rightful public benefits including unemployment
  • Protecting against increased risks of violence and abuse
  • Providing fair access to education and health care
  • Defending economic security from debt collection

This $11M investment over the 2021-23 biennium will support state-funded legal aid programs providing support and justice for people most harmed by COVID-19, and help ensure that our state’s recovery is fair and equitable.

Federal Advocacy

The EJC advocates for increased funding for civil legal aid through the federal Legal Services Corporation (LSC). In Washington, LSC provides the Northwest Justice Project (NJP) with more than $7 million per year. Congress appropriates the annual LSC budget.

Every year the EJC brings stakeholders to meet (now virtually) with the entire Washington Congressional delegation in support of the LSC budget request and the American Bar Association’s advocacy. We’re grateful for the consistent support of Senators Cantwell and Murray, and our 10 Representatives, for federal legal aid funding.

Bipartisan support for legal aid in Congress has led to small increases in the agency’s budget in recent years. The 2022 budget proposed by President Biden and the House of Representatives would provide $600 million for LSC, which would represent nearly a 30% increase in response to increased civil legal needs.

Local Advocacy

The EJC currently advocates for funding from King County, which has invested in several local legal aid programs for many years.

The King County Council appropriates funds and also supports the legal aid network with an annual proclamation of Pro Bono Week, to honor the tens of thousands of hours of free services provided by volunteers through legal aid programs every year.

The County’s 2021-22 biennial budget included steady funding for civil legal aid programs, which also receive funds through the Veterans, Seniors & Human Services Levy. The County Council also allocated nearly $5 million in emergency funding for legal aid in response to COVID-19, after the EJC advocated for additional support for services including tenant protections, access to unemployment and other benefits, and family safety.

The EJC delegation to Congress after a meeting with Sen. Patty Murray in 2019 (our last pre-pandemic in-person visit to Washington, D.C.). L-R: C├ęsar Torres, Northwest Justice Project; Andy Sachs, former EJC chair; Fred Rivera, Seattle Mariners general counsel; Will Livesley-O’Neill, EJC staff; Angel Tomeo Sam, The Bail Project; Caitlin Davis, Legal Foundation of Washington; Bill Pickett, former Washington State Bar Association president; Justice Mary Yu, Washington State Supreme Court.
EJC stakeholders met with King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, outside the offices of the Eastside Legal Assistance Program in Bellevue, to receive the County Council’s proclamation of 2020 Pro Bono Week. L-R: Michael Terasaki, Pro Bono Council; John Tirpak, Unemployment Law Project; Jerry Kroon, Eastside Legal Assistance Program; Michelle Lucas, Tenant Law Center; Councilmember Dunn; Will Livesley-O’Neill, EJC staff; Terra Nevitt, Washington State Bar Association; Kyle Sciuchetti, Washington State Bar Association president.