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Foundation awards $6.4 million in Community Economic Development grants

The Florida Bar Foundation board on Dec. 7 approved $6.4 million in grants to 28 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 (DOJ) 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 received 33 grant applications requesting $11,194,396, and will fully fund 16 of the requests. Twelve requests will be partially funded.

The largest grant was awarded to Legal Services of Greater Miami, which will collaborate with Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Disability Independence Group, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Legal Services of North Florida and Bay Area Legal Services to provide services statewide.

This project will address the intertwined problems of the lack of affordable housing and low wages. By representing nonprofit organizations engaged in the development and rehabilitation of housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income Floridians, the project contributes to an increase in affordable housing in the communities it serves. And, by providing legal services essential to helping low-income entrepreneurs and nonprofits, legal aid programs create opportunities for low-income individuals to increase their income and assets which are necessary to move out of poverty, create employment opportunities, and strengthen neighborhoods and their business institutions.

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

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