Underfunded for years, Texas legal aid organizations say they are struggling to provide civil legal services to the poor in the wake of revenue shortfalls and hurricanes that buffeted coastal regions in 2005 and again this year.
“What we have is a delivery system that the infrastructure has been starved to death,” says Betty Balli Torres, executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF), which has awarded about $24 million in grants to approximately 40 legal aid groups this year. “When a hurricane hits, it’s a huge challenge to an underfunded system,” she says.
James B. Sales, chairman of the Texas Access to Justice Commission (TAJC) created by the state Supreme Court in 2001 to find ways to improve civil legal services for poor and low-income Texans, says only about 25 percent of the people who need those services are receiving assistance.
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