News Releases

Alabama Access to Justice Commission

Rural Legal Services Delivery Initiative

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service 23% of Alabama’s residents live in rural areas.  Poverty rates are higher in rural counties than in urban counties.  Some counties have a high percentage of residents living in poverty, but lower total population.  Other counties may have a slightly lower percentage of residents living in poverty, but have more low-income residents in terms of sheer numbers.

People who live in rural areas are accustomed to traveling some distance to access services.  However, legal problems generally must be handled in the county in which the case is pending or where the legal problem arose, meaning they must find help locally.  Low-income residents of rural counties find their options for legal assistance limited not only by a lack of funds, but also by the fact that there are fewer attorneys in rural areas.

Legal Services Alabama has closed several offices over the past 10 years so attorneys must travel farther to serve clients in rural areas.  It is difficult for Volunteer Lawyer Programs to serve rural areas because there are fewer lawyers to provide pro bono legal assistance.

The Alabama Access to Justice Commission is soliciting grant applications for a demonstration project to provide direct civil legal services to low-income residents of rural areas of Alabama.  Eligible clients will be people with incomes up to 150% of the federal poverty level.

We encourage innovative approaches and collaboration among organizations to create programs that can offer direct access to legal services, beyond brief advice and counsel where needed, for low income individuals in impoverished areas of the State.  Applicants should identify the specific geographic area to be served under their proposals, and should specify the extent to which awarded funds would be expended on direct service as opposed to administrative expenses.

Applicants must submit grant applications online. The deadline for submission is April 29, 2016.  One or more grants will be awarded June 1, 2016 for a one-year grant beginning August 1, 2016, with the possibility of a one-year renewal for a successful program.  The maximum amount awarded for a one-year period will be $75,000.  Applicants must be 501 (c) (3) nonprofits, a law school or a governmental entity.

Successful applicants must carry legal malpractice insurance, submit regular reports and maintain case files documenting services provided.  Grantees will be expected, within their stated service area, to coordinate with other providers in the delivery of services