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Foundation awards $6.4 million in Community Economic Development grants

The Florida Bar Foundation board on Dec. 13 approved $6,443,162 in grants to 25 legal aid providers to address community economic development. Following a $16.65 billion settlement agreement between Bank of America (BOA) and the Department of Justice in 2014, BOA agreed to resolve federal and state claims by making donations to state-based Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account (IOLTA) organizations that provide funds to legal aid organizations.

The Foundation received an initial donation of $1.395 million in 2015, and an additional $23 million in 2016 from BOA.

The Foundation asked applicants to develop creative and sustainable projects that have far-ranging and lasting impact on communities. Applicant projects had to have at least one of the following purposes:

1. Preserve, rehabilitate or develop affordable housing for low- and moderate-income clients;
2. Create sustainable business development or employment opportunities; or
3. Create practical and replicable solutions to attaining social, community or economic justice.

The Foundation received 30 grant applications requesting $9,938,136. The Foundation will fully fund the five applicants with the highest scores. Twenty applicants will be partially funded at rates of 75%, 70% or 66.3% based on their application scores.

The largest grant was awarded to Florida Legal Services. The Foundation will fund four of its programs, including the Disaster Preparation and Recovery project, which provides legal information, disaster-related legal assistance to low-income clients, and systemic and policy advocacy to ensure that disaster relief is made available. FLS estimates the project will serve more than 15,000 Floridians.

Grant applications were evaluated and scored by a panel of six made up of staff and board members. The Foundation’s grants committee reviewed the panel’s recommendations and presented the grants for a discussion and vote at the board meeting.