Quarterly Board Report
November 6, 2020
Via virtual meeting
The Florida Bar Foundation Board of Directors met via Zoom conference on November 6, 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The major actions of the board and reports received included:
IOTA Enhancement Committee reports proposed amendment that would increase IOTA revenues
Joseph Hudgins, chair of the Foundation’s IOTA Enhancement Committee, reported that he had introduced a proposed rule change that would change the method by which participating financial institutions set interest rates on Florida Lawyers’ Trust Accounts. Mr. Hudgins, sitting by designation on the Foundation’s board in the place of The Florida Bar Immediate Past President John Stewart, stated that the concept has been well-received by those with whom he has spoken and further reported that the proposed amendment had been referred to the Bar’s Disciplinary Procedure Committee which next meets on December 3, 2020.
Staff reported that it is working with Mr. Hudgins to prepare various models and historical and future projections based on Mr. Hudgins’ proposed rule change in an effort to analyze the potential impact of the proposed change. Staff also reported that it had accepted the Disciplinary Procedure Committee’s invitation to attend its next meeting on December 3 to discuss the proposed amendment and answer any questions that the committee may have.
Board officers selected
The Board ratified the selection of Murray Silverstein to fill the seat of Second Vice President for the remainder of FY 20-21.
In addition, the Board ratified the selection of its officers for FY 21-22 as follows:
- Connie Bookman – President
- Judge Suzanne Van Wyk – President-Elect
- Murray Silverstein – First Vice President
- Roberto Pardo – Second Vice President
- Steve Senn – Immediate Past President
The Board also discussed the status of its public member seats. Currently, the Board has two members serving, with one scheduled to term off on June 30, 2021. Foundation bylaws provide that there shall be at least 2 and no more than 4 public members sitting on the Foundation’s Board of Directors. Board members were requested to consider the identification and selection of qualified candidates to fill at least one public member seat beginning July 1, 2021.
Board adopts comprehensive policy changes to Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP)
Concluding a nearly two-year review process designed to streamline the Foundation’s LRAP process, the Board adopted the final changes to its LRAP Program Description and Policies. In short, the Board approved 10 changes to the LRAP Program Description as follows:
- Clarifies employment eligibility of loan applicants;
- Clarifies the scope of services to be provided by loan recipients;
- Confirms that late LRAP applications will not be accepted;
- Clarifies eligibility of loan applicants to include all attorneys legally authorized and permitted to practice in the state of Florida (military spouses, Emeritus, etc.);
- Adds a forgiveness policy to address persons laid off or terminated without cause due to a decline in grantee revenue or funding shortages;
- Adds an audit provision to the LRAP program;
- Changes selection process from “first come, first served” to random selection with priority given to current participants in good standing;
- Changes the loan forgiveness process, including the timing and nature of the forgiveness application;
- Establishes a formal written policy on collection remedies for those in default; and
- Establishes a formal policy for participants who quit or are terminated for cause due to extreme or unusual circumstances.
Copies of the revised and current LRAP Program Description incorporating the amendments described above are available for review on the Foundation’s website at: https://thefloridabarfoundation.org/project/loan-repayment-assistance-program/.
Board approves Grant Funding Scenario for FY 2020-21.
The Board approved the continued funding of seven grants programs in the total amount of $8,606,189 as follows:
Administration of Justice: $500,000
Community Economic Development: $2,000,000
COVID-19 Relief: $3,954,993
Children’s Legal Services: $655,000
Limited Matching Funds: $200,000
Law School Civil Clinic*: $196,196
*If unused, these funds will be allocated back to Limited Matching Funds.
Due to reduced interest rates caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and depletion of third-party funding sources, four existing grants programs will not be funded in FY 2020-21. These four programs are 1) Statewide Training Initiative for FBF grantees; 2) Equal Justice Works Fellowships; 3) Summer Fellows; and 4) Pro Bono Transformation and Innovation Grants.
FY 2019-20 Community Economic Development Grants to be partially extended in FY 2020-21
Because the primary source of CED grants funding (Bank of America settlement proceeds) was depleted last year, the funding allocation for CED grants had to be significantly reduced for FY 2020-21. Consequently, the Board agreed with staff’s recommendation that CED funding for FY 2020-21 should be awarded in the form of selected extensions of existing CED grants. The recommendation was based on the consideration of many factors, including but not limited to:
- The significant decrease in funding available for this grant program;
- The staff time that would need to be expended for grantees and the Foundation to proceed with a full application process for FY 2020-21;
- The need for these funds to be distributed to grantees as quickly as possible so that they can provide critical legal services to low-income Floridians;
- The importance of continuing services for current legal aid clients of funded projects; and
- The grantees’ expected decrease in availability of non-Foundation funding.
As a result, the selection process for CED grant project extensions will include careful analysis of:
- The overall performance of current projects including achievement of grant purposes, goals, objectives and actual deliverables;
- The nature of current projects and the need for continued funding (i.e. Is the project designed for multiple years? If so, does it have other sources of funding for going forward? If no other funding is available for going forward, is the project viable with only FBF funding? Is the grantee requesting additional funding?); and
- The capacity and resources of the grantee to continue the project (i.e. Does the grantee have the staff, time, and cooperation of other needed legal/community partners to continue the grant project?).
Changing the funding process in the manner described allows the Foundation to use its limited resources to target and extend essential and high-performing projects, which is expected to add more positive impact for those projects.
Directors were requested to help evaluate the FY 2019-20 CED final reports due to the importance of carefully determining which existing projects are most qualified to receive limited funding extensions.
The Development/Pro Bono Committee reported that research, analysis and discussion continue regarding whether the Foundation will implement a Service Charge/Administrative Fee policy. A more detailed report and recommendation is expected at the Board’s next meeting.
Directors were also advised that a virtual Annual Awards Ceremony for 2020 will be held on December 3, 2020, at 2 p.m. The Foundation’s 2020 Medal of Honor recipients, along with the Foundation’s other honorees will be recognized and applauded at that time. The ceremony is being planned and produced by staff (Jessica Brown, Andrea De Voe and Michelle Fonseca) and will be sponsored by those who generously agreed to transfer to this event their sponsorships of the June Annual Dinner (which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
In addition, it was announced that the Foundation is reviving its previous ONE CAMPAIGN with significant help from The Florida Bar’s Pro Bono Legal Services Committee, co-chaired by Judge Catherine Peek McEwen and Kathleen Shinn McLeroy. The campaign, named ONE PROMISE, will seek to increase attorney pro bono representation throughout Florida. Gary Yordon, founder of The Zachary Group and producer of the previous ONE CAMPAIGN project, has graciously agreed to provide his professional services for free in connection with the campaign. The Business Law Section of The Florida Bar, The Tampa Bay Bankruptcy Bar Association and The Bench and Bar Fund of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida have generously contributed monies to offset the production costs of the campaign.
Similarly, the Board was advised that the Foundation will conduct its third annual Law School Challenge in 2021. This initiative involves a competition amongst all Florida law schools whereby alumni are matched with law students to provide pro bono representation throughout Florida. 306 matches resulting in full representation cases were made during the inaugural year of the program in 2019. This year, the program produced 200 student – lawyer matches on full representation cases from 20 legal aid programs, but was hampered by the onset of the pandemic.
NEXT MEETING. The Board’s next scheduled meeting will be on March 12, 2020, either remotely or in person in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In the interim, the Executive Committee will consider whether an in-person meeting is possible or preferable given the fact that all 2020 Board meetings were conducted remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.