- Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Good morning! Thank you to all of you who are participating in the Talk to the Hill today, and to everyone who has worked so hard to prepare for it.
This event is always important, because it gives us an opportunity to address the challenges faced by people who are too often forgotten in our society – those who cannot afford a lawyer to assist them with their most basic civil legal needs.
But it is especially important this year, because of the ongoing problems caused by the pandemic.
It is hard to believe that we are now nearing the second anniversary of the onset of COVID-19.
It seems that each time we think we are arriving at the end of this dark period, a new wave of infections arises, caused by a new variant of the coronavirus, identified by yet another letter of the Greek alphabet.
By now, we are far too familiar with the pain and disruption caused by the pandemic.
Many people have lost loved ones.
Many others have lost their jobs. Our state unemployment rate hit historic highs in 2020. And although it has improved since then, it was still higher than the national average through much of 2021.
With the loss of family members and jobs, many families have been under enormous financial pressure, facing the potential loss of their homes. And they have been under great psychological stress as well.
Given that reality, it is not surprising that during the past two years, legal aid organizations funded by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation have seen significant increases in cases involving employment rights, unemployment benefits, housing, and family and juvenile matters.
And there has also been a surge in the overall number of cases handled by these legal aid organizations during the pandemic.
We are so fortunate that our legislators and the Governor have recognized the need for additional funding for legal services during the pandemic. They have stepped up to increase legal aid appropriations substantially over the last two years.
But even with that additional money, legal services organizations still must turn away over half of those who seek their help.
When you speak to your legislators today, please thank them for their steadfast support.
And ask them to give legal aid lawyers the resources they need to continue to tackle the legal problems, heightened by COVID, faced by those who cannot afford counsel.
Until we have conquered the coronavirus, we must continue to deal with its impacts on our society, not just medically, but legally as well.
Just as we strive to provide necessary medical assistance to all who are infected by COVID, so we should strive to provide necessary legal assistance to all who are affected by COVID.
Thank you to all of you for taking time out of your day to speak with your legislators, to express your appreciation for their backing in the past, and to ask for their continuing support for legal aid in the future.