City to cut legal aid funding for thousands

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --- Thousands of working poor in Jacksonville could soon be out of luck when looking for a lawyer in a civil case.

The Executive Director of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid says he'll need to make big cuts if more than $400,000 in funding taken out of the budget isn't restored.

"We are trying to put ourselves in a position where we can continue to provide services in Duval County," said Jim Kowalski.

Every year, many go to the agency's office to look for help with everything from bankruptcies to foreclosures. In Mayor Brown's budget for next year, the agency was set to receive $433,000 to help them continue to provide those services. The Finance Committee looked at the budget, and slashed those funds completely.

JALA also didn't get any funding last year.

Councilman Matt Schellenberg is vice chair of the Finance Committee. He told First Coast News there's not enough money in the budget, so all agencies are getting the same amount of money they got last year.

Kowalski says in addition to relying more heavily on their partners, cuts need to be made. Those include closing the Jacksonville office one day a week, slashing staff salaries by 20 percent -- even possible layoffs.

"The board asked us to plan, we've planned, and this is the result of the plan," he said.

Kowalski says if the budget stays as is, the cuts will take place Sept. 1. The budget needs to be approved by October.

In a statement, councilman Schellenberg said, "I think that Jacksonville is full of great people. People are going to stand up to help, we won't be using tax dollars. Instead, they'll be taking the responsibility back from the government".

JALA has offices in St Johns and Clay counties. The Jacksonville budget won't impact those offices.


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