Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York, Inc. will receive a $207,233 Pro Bono Innovation Fund grant from the Legal Services Corporation Pro Bono Innovation Fund to help serve more low-income clients with bankruptcy and student loan discharge, the organization announced.
The fund supporting the grants is intended to encourage and expand pro bono efforts and partnerships to serve more low-income clients.
Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York will use its grant to address the gap in consumer-bankruptcy services in Syracuse and surrounding counties. Volunteer attorneys will triage cases, screen and advise clients who will then be referred to pro bono attorneys, a bankruptcy clinic at Syracuse University School of Law or pro se legal clinics.
The organization will also develop an online screening and referral tool to identify candidates for student loan discharge. This tool will be created in partnership with Upsolve.org, a nonprofit that provides free online bankruptcy assistance. Where appropriate, student loan litigation will be filed with pro bono co-counsel.
Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York serves Broome, Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, and Otsego, as well as agriculture workers anywhere in the state.
The grant is among 19 totaling about $4.3 million announced Aug. 20 by the Legal Services Corporation, an independent not-for-profit organization that helps provide legal representation of people who live in households with annual incomes at or below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines – in 2015, $14,713 for an individual, $30,313 for a family of four.
“This funding comes at a crucial time in our region,” Executive Director Paul Lupia said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many households. Across New York state, people are still facing job loss and lost income. This pro bono project gives people in an emergency access to legal counsel.”