UTICA, N.Y. — The Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York, Inc (LASMNY) will use a federal grant of more than $207,000 to provide access to legal counsel and advice in consumer-bankruptcy services to those “most stricken by the economic crisis.”
The funding comes from the Legal Services Corporation, the federally funded, nonprofit corporation established by Congress to help provide equal access to justice to Americans by providing funding for civil legal aid to those who can’t afford it.
LASMNY operates in 13 counties across Central New York and the Southern Tier.
“This funding comes at a crucial time in our region. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many households. Across New York State, people are still facing job loss and lost income. This pro bono project gives people in an emergency access to legal counsel,” Paul Lupia, executive director of the Society, said.
Volunteer attorneys will triage cases, screen, and advise clients who will then be referred to pro bono attorneys. LASMNY is also partnering with bankruptcy clinics at the Syracuse University School of Law and pro se legal clinics.
“Everyone deserves a second chance. Bankruptcy can give people the opportunity to get back on their feet. This project’s funding will allow us to engage local attorneys, partner with Upsolve.org, and give Syracuse University law students hands-on experience,” Arlene Sanders, director of pro bono programs at LASMNY, said.
A “unique” part of the grant is identifying the possibility of student-loan discharges through the triage process in bankruptcy. Up until January 2020, students were told that student debt could not be forgiven through bankruptcy. Now, more judges and lawyers say that’s a “misnomer,” and bankruptcy can help, the organization said.
The Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York, Inc. is a nonprofit law office, providing free civil legal information, advice, and representation to people who cannot afford a lawyer.
It serves 13 counties, including Broome, Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, and Otsego.
The organization also serves agriculture workers anywhere in New York.
LASMANY has offices in Utica, Syracuse, Binghamton, Watertown, Oswego, Oneonta, Cooperstown, and New Paltz.