CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal spending cuts will likely force the overburdened Legal Aid of West Virginia to lay off several lawyers in order to compensate for its annual budget woes, officials confirmed Tuesday.
On Nov. 14, Congress passed the emergency "minibus" spending bill that cut deeply into several areas of the federal government, including agriculture, commerce, justice and science. The measure has so far promised to saddle Legal Aid with a nearly $500,000 budget reduction in 2012.
The program's projected budget for 2012 stands at about $2.8 million.
"Unless some new money drops in our lap, I think we're inevitably going to be reducing our staff," Legal Aid Executive Director Adrienne Worthy said Tuesday.
Legal Aid provides lawyers for low-income citizens who cannot afford to hire private attorneys. The lawyers generally represent clients in domestic, landlord dispute, bankruptcy and government-benefit cases.
Worthy said Legal Aid executives have not yet determined which portions of the program will receive the heaviest layoffs.
"We're still looking at how we're going to take that hit," she said. "We do a lot of domestic violence work on what we get from the feds. Our big concern is what about everything else that we do?"
The budget cuts add a new challenge to a statewide initiative aimed at eliminating barriers that prevent the poor, disabled, illiterate and inexperienced from receiving proper representation in the state's legal system.
The Access to Justice Commission, headed by West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin, concluded the last of six forums just a day after Congress passed the November minibus bill.
Several commission members noted at the final forum that the state, mostly through Legal Aid, has taken strides since the beginning of the decade to provide more litigation services to those in need.