More people in Arizona can get civil legal aid after Hobbs adds funds, raises income cap
More low-income Arizonans will now have access to legal assistance in civil cases. Gov. Katie Hobbs is directing $5 million toward the state’s legal aid services and is also raising the income cap to expand who qualifies for help.
The $5 million investment is coming from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.
Phoenix-based Community Legal Services will receive $2.4 million; Southern Arizona Legal Aid will get $1.3 million; and Flagstaff-based DNA People’s Legal Services will receive $600,000.
An additional $600,000 will fund public legal education programs through the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education.
Response to housing crisis
"This is really exciting and wonderful news for low-income Arizonans that need help accessing our justice system to protect their rights," said Maxine Becker, attorney advocate with the poverty solutions nonprofit Wildfire.
The investment comes as eviction filings in Maricopa County are approaching record highs and homelessness in the Phoenix area has spiked 50% in five years.
In a press release, Hobbs said the goal of the investment is to combat housing instability.
"It's not specifically for housing," Becker said. "But the idea is if we can provide more civil legal aid for more Arizonans who need it, we may be able to solve problems sooner."
Income cap raised to about $60,000
Becker said civil cases in which low-income Arizonans may need assistance could include family law, employment disputes or damaged credit. She said any of those types of cases can eventually contribute to housing instability.
"We can help them before an eviction may even happen, we can help the during an eviction, and we can help them after an eviction," Becker said.
Before this, Arizona had no state-level funding for this type of legal aid, Becker said. In addition to providing funding for civil legal services, Hobbs is raising the income cap to qualify for aid for a family of four from $37,500 to about $60,000. As a result, about 1 million more Arizonans will be able to access services, according to Hobbs' press release.
Becker said Arizonans seeking civil legal assistance can find resources at AZLawHelp.org.