To learn more about charitable giving opportunities at the Foundation, please contact:
The Florida Bar Foundation
Florida Toll free (800) 541-2195
In addition to the letter below, Scott Hawkins, President of The Florida Bar, and Michele Kane Cummings, President of The Florida Bar Foundation, have each recorded a special video appeal.
To Our Fellow Florida Bar Members:
Legal aid funding in Florida is headed off a cliff, and Florida’s poor are going to pay the price — unless we act.
You can help alleviate this urgent situation, which is expected to last for only a few years, by making a multi-year pledge to The Florida Bar Foundation at: www.floridabarfoundation.org/now.
If every Florida Bar member would give $100 or more for each of the next three years, the Foundation would be able to restore at least $9 million in legal aid funding annually during this crisis.
This shortfall is a consequence of the Federal Reserve having held short-term interest rates close to zero since 2008 in an effort to stimulate the economy. For this reason, IOTA revenue, The Florida Bar Foundation’s chief source of revenue, has dropped 88 percent from $44 million annually in 2007 to just to $5.5 million annually since 2010. And that is where it is expected to stay until at least 2014.
The Florida Bar Foundation, which has been providing about a third of the funding for 31 local legal aid organizations covering all 67 Florida counties, had prepared for a slump in IOTA revenue by setting aside a reserve fund, but this recession has outlasted the reserve.
The Foundation, by 2014, will have cut its funding to Florida’s legal aid programs by 71 percent in three years. At the same time, the federally funded Legal Services Corporation, another important source of legal aid funding, has been cut by Congress. This means Florida’s low-income children, elderly, families, disabled, recently unemployed and other vulnerable populations will have fewer legal aid attorneys to whom they can turn for help; nearly 30 percent fewer by our best estimates. The layoffs have already begun, both at legal aid and at the Foundation.
So, as the presidents of The Florida Bar and The Florida Bar Foundation, respectively, we are asking you to act. Now.
If you have given to The Florida Bar Foundation before, now is the time to increase your support. If you’ve never given before, now is the time to start. With your help, we can minimize the long-term damage to Florida’s legal aid infrastructure between now and the time when interest rates return to pre-recession levels and the Foundation is able to restore legal aid funding.
We realize many of you already give to your local legal aid organization, and we thank you for that. We hope that you will also give to The Florida Bar Foundation, which provides important statewide funding, leadership and technical support to Florida’s local legal aid organizations.
The special “Now” campaign form at the link below will enable you to make automated credit card payments over time to fulfill your pledge to this timely and critically important campaign.
The Florida Bar Foundation, with advocacy support from The Florida Bar, has in the past received anywhere from $1 million to $2.5 million from the Florida Legislature through the Florida Access to Civil Legal Assistance Act and will continue to seek legislative funding, but it is not guaranteed, and it is not enough.
If we, as lawyers, do not step up to fill this urgent need for legal aid funding, then who will? Please visit www.floridabarfoundation.org/now to make your pledge. And please do it “Now.”
Scott G. Hawkins, President
The Florida Bar
Michele Kane Cummings, President
The Florida Bar Foundation