You and your loved ones are on our minds during this time of upheaval, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope you are staying safe and finding meaningful activities while observing social distancing guidelines.
We want to let you know how our work for equal access to justice is currently impacted by sharing three key updates:
I. Our Response to COVID-19
DC’s legal aid network has been hit hard at a time when many of our DC neighbors living on low income need help most desperately. These are just a few of the real, pressing experiences those individuals are facing today:
A grocery worker on maternity leave has been called back to work by her employer. But she has no one to care for her newborn, and she worries about exposing her baby to the virus.
A family’s children don’t have full access to the educational supports they need for distance learning.
A resident needing mental health support experiences major new challenges accessing it.
A child and parent living with an abusive family member face increased danger as they abide by stay-at-home guidelines.
I know you care about these neighbors as much as we do. We want to answer the call from these individuals and many, many more. The need is great and will continue to increase. In response to COVID-19, we are taking the necessary steps to support our community by assessing available resources to make additional grants that address short-term emergency needs in DC’s legal aid network, identifying high-priority needs within the network, and developing a strategy to disburse emergency funds efficiently and to address the identified priorities.
II. Impact of Recent Interest Rate Changes
The IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts) Program is one of the Foundation’s main streams of revenue. Through this program, the interest on thousands of bank accounts is pooled and used to support the legal aid network in the District. Last year, we received more than $2M in IOLTA revenue. However, because of the recent Federal interest rate cuts, we – along with IOLTA programs across the country – are expecting substantially decreased funding available to support legal aid. This decrease in IOLTA funding will have an impact on our ability to make grants in the coming years, and we are urging our banking partners to not drop the rates on their DC IOLTA accounts.
(Full press release from the National Association of IOLTA Programs (NAIP) can be found here.)
III. DC Bar Foundation Events Postponed
President’s Reception: We have postponed our annual President’s Reception, celebrating the members of our 77 Society, from May 12 until the Fall. We look forward to honoring these generous donors and thanking them for their support when the time is safe.
Lip Sync for Justice: We have postponed our annual Lip Sync for Justice event, originally scheduled for June 4, 2020. In planning the event, the health and safety of our Lip Sync guests is our highest priority. We will provide an update as soon as a new date has been selected. We know that there are so many of you who read this newsletter – grantees, LRAP recipients, banking partners, donors, philanthropic partners and other funders, just to name a few. Please know that while our work and lives have been affected in many ways, we will continue to advocate for access to justice at a time when it is needed more than ever. There are at least two ways you can help.
First, please consider making a gift to support our neighbors in need. Your generosity will deploy dollars where they are needed most, to strengthen DC’s legal aid network. (The recently-passed economic stimulus bill known as the CARES Act provides many incentives for the donor community in light of the massive needs created by COVID-19.) Second, if you hear of any legal needs in the community, or have ideas on how we can partner to address these needs within the civil legal aid network, please reach out to me. Your input helps us stay abreast of the unprecedented challenges our neighbors face.
Please stay connected with us – we are here for all we serve. Thank you for your support. Please take care of yourself and one another.
Together for our neighbors, Kirra L. Jarratt Chief Executive Officer
P.S. Foundation staff continues teleworking, following DC government guidelines. We are maintaining our capacity by staying in touch through conference calls and video meetings. You may continue to connect with us via email.