Module 5: COVID-19 Resources

JGP American Rescue Plan Funding Matrix

American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 offers multiple funding opportunities to help people with their pandemic-related civil justice problems. These funds represent a historic opportunity to fuel momentum on state-based civil access to justice efforts.

One-Time Expenditure Ideas

Towards the end of 2020, many local and state governments had unspent Coronavirus Relief Funds that would have to be returned to the Treasury Department if not spent by December 30, 2020. Although that time has now passed, this list offers ideas for last-minute expenses that may be eligible under other sources of federal pass-through funds when your jurisdiction discovers unspent funds near their Federal deadline you can propose.

For more information about state-administered federal funds that can support legal aid, including legal aid examples, helpful tips, and language regarding legal aid, see the JGP Grants Matrix, which now contains information on COVID-19 information and guidance. 

JGP also created a more courts-focused version of the Grants Matrix:

Justice in Government Project COVID-19 Publications and Webinars

  • The Justice in Government Project, supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts, published a case study about how New Hampshire and Kansas courts have tapped state-administered CARES Act authorized awards from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) and Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program (CESF) to help them with their pandemic response.
  • Karlee Naylon, Anna deDufour and Karen Lash published an article in the Summer 2020 issue of the MIE Journal titled, “Civil Legal Aid Funding in the Time of COVID-19”. The article explains how new and old sources of federal pass-through grants can address civil legal problems tied to the COVID-19 fallout and provides examples of states that have incorporated civil legal aid into COVID-related funding opportunities.
  • Karen Lash discussed the federal block/formula/open-ended reimbursement funding opportunities that are available to state and local courts navigating COVID-19 in NCSC’s Tiny Chat video series. Watch Tiny Chat 3: Federal Pass-Through Funding and read the companion courts-focused Grants Matrix
  • The ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives and The Justice in Government Project co-hosted a webinar on Civil Legal Aid Funding in the Time of COVID-19. The panelists included: Shubi Deoras (ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives), Karen A. Lash (JGP), Jim Bamberger (Washington State Office of Civil Legal Aid), Patrick Cicero (Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network), and Stephanie Harris (Ohio State Legal Services Association).

Other COVID-19 Resources

The National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) maintains a COVID-19 Updates and Resources page, “a space for advocates to share resources and find policy developments affecting the delivery of legal services and access to justice.” The resources and updates cover topics under leadership, management, and delivery; court access and virtual operations; housing, debt, and consumer issues; and more.

ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense provides the latest COVID-19 information, resources, and updates for legal aid funding, advocacy, and other organizations on its COVID-19 Resources page.

Voices for Civil Justice can help with media messaging. Utilizing the media can be an effective way to increase awareness of and propel legal aid pitches forward.

Here are some examples of effective legal aid op-eds:

  • PLAN Executive Director Patrick Cicero wrote an article for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star on the escalation of the financial and legal crisis COVID-19 in Pennsylvania.
  • Tzedek DC Executive Director Ariel Levinson-Waldman’s article in The DC Line on why the District should fully fund civil legal services to confront the coming tidal wave of debt collection cases.
  • Katie Dilks (Executive Director, Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation) and Michael Figgins (Executive Director, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma) co-authored an article for The Oklahoman about how legal aid is a front-line responder.
  • Mary Fairhurst (Former Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice) and Fred Rivera (Seattle Mariners General Counsel) warned how the coronavirus will overwhelm our civil legal aid system in a co-authored and well-timed article in the Seattle Times.
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