The Alabama Civil Justice Foundation (ACJF) awarded Legal Services Alabama (LSA) with a grant in the amount of $235,000 in September. The grant, which will “impact and improve rural Alabama communities,” is a part of a Rural Economic Improvement Project (REIP) partnership.
LSA Deputy Director, Jaffe Pickett, stated the partnership will help find innovative and collaborative ways to address the economic and consumer issues many rural communities face. “LSA is honored to receive funding from The Alabama Civil Justice Foundation to provide community redevelopment services targeting rural communities,” she said. “Our Rural Economic Improvement Project will address many of the obstacles low income and vulnerable individuals and families face when in need of free civil legal services. These critical services will be accomplished through collaboration with service partners, community empowerment and education, and through innovative advocacy designed to remedy some of the underlying issues in impoverished communities. This project was an original and innovative response to a request to meet the needs of so many who are underserved. The goal is to eliminate many of the systemic and continuous factors that continue to accelerate high rates of poverty; research for this project illustrated that people in rural areas face a much higher probability of having legal issues that are not addressed, and face several obstacles including: a lack of knowledge about available services, transportation barriers, fear of sharing information, and a general barrier to seeking assistance because many people are still struggling for basic survival.”
This project, Pickett stated, was created to fill gaps in services, providing LSA with a Statewide REIP Coordinating Lead Attorney, who will coordinate services in rural areas and address civil legal needs of low-income persons; and a REIP Staff Attorney, who will focus on the nine counties that make up the Black Belt. With a base in LSA’s Selma Regional Office, the attorneys will assist LSA Staff in “providing a financial education and competency” in such areas as: small business services, credit counseling and repair, and financial counseling among others. The Coordinating Lead Attorney will also lead efforts to organize and execute legal clinics in rural, underserved counties, through such means as: creating a comprehensive array of materials, distributing materials to appropriate community groups, and educating the groups about their existence and use while educating and empowering citizens in rural areas of the state.
Pickett also noted, “ACJF funding will allow LSA to provide economic stability and improvement to rural and isolated Alabama communities. We are excited to begin these critical services and will be assisted by our grant partner, Alabama Appleseed, who will provide essential outcomes for the project.”