The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened to overwhelm our healthcare infrastructure. Not far behind is a threat to overwhelm our legal system and resources.
During one month in New York, 45% of legal aid inquiries were related to COVID-19. Questions ranged from the pandemic’s impact on evictions to insurance coverage, consumer rights, public benefits, and employment law. As with pandemic healthcare, access to legal services is unequal.
Remote work and limited access to courtrooms have complicated the legal aid system. And as legal needs increase across the population, legal aid budgets are bottoming out. By cutting interest rates broadly, economic stimulus efforts have zeroed out interest rates on traditional funding sources like lawyers’ trust accounts.
In this moment of crisis, there has been a major increase in demand and a significant decrease in funding for legal aid.