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LSSM May Realize Budget Cuts

Friday September 2, 2011

(Springfield, MO) -- Congress dropped the budget for the corporation that supports free legal services at more than 100 spots across the country.

Hundreds of low income residents of the Ozarks could get turned away from free legal aid if these cuts go through.

Right now, they're only general spending recomendations, and they're bundled together with a load of other proposed cuts.

Still, Legal Services of Southern Missouri is bracing for a possible blow.

Elizabeth, a domestic abuse victim claims her ex-husband was emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive in her household.

"My children, they're special and they don't deserve to be treated that way," she says. "If I had not had legal aid, I would have been stuck in that situation. If there wasn't funds for domestic violence centers, I would have nowhere to go."

With the help of Legal Services of Southern Missouri, Elizabeth says she got a protective order, a safe home, and found an attorney to help with a divorce.

"We get about 10,000 applications a year on an average year and we're able to help about 2,500 people," says Douglas Kays, executive direction of Legal Services of Southern Missouri.

Attorneys there could soon be helping fewer people.

Earlier this year, Congress okayed a 4-percent cut to the National Legal Services Corporation. Now, the House Appopriations Committee is proposing taking away another 26-percent from the group next year.

Kays says proposed federal cuts would translate to $500,000 less for Legal Services of Southern Missouri.

"We help about 2,500 people a year," says Kay. "We'd probably have to reduce that by 500 or 600."

In a media release about the proposal, the House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said, "Given this time of fiscal crisis, it is also important that Congress make tough decisions to cut programs when necessary to give priority to programs with broad national reach that have the most benefit to the American people."

If you want to get legal aid, you have to meet certain income guidlines. The executive director says maximum income for a single person is just more than $13,000 a year.

For a family of four, it's about $28,000.

To view the interview visit http://ozarksfirst.com/fulltext?nxd_id=514897