The Florida Bar Foundation awarded $1,467,000 in Children’s Legal Services grants, $1,081,000 in Administration of Justice grants and $300,000 in Pro Bono Transformation and Innovation grants at its first quarter board meeting March 9. In December, the Foundation awarded $6,371,839 in Community-Based Civil Legal Services grants to 26 legal aid organizations. The Foundation also allocated $434,000 for four Equal Justice Works Fellowships for the class of 2018-20 and $967,925 for the Loan Repayment Assistance Program in 2018.
“The Foundation board is proud to support diverse projects that grantees have created,” said Florida Bar Foundation President Jewel White, who is also the county attorney for Pinellas County. “We look forward to seeing the impact these funds have on tenants’ rights, domestic violence, children, immigration, medical legal partnerships, legal technology, homelessness and disability rights.”
In line with the Foundation’s strategic reset, many grant recipients will collaborate on projects. Brevard County Legal Aid and Seminole County Bar Association Legal Aid Society will work together on best practices around domestic violence advocacy. Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida & Legal Aid of Manasota will collaborate on medical legal partnership advocacy. Others will collaborate on complex affordable housing development transactions.
The Foundation awarded 20 programs across the state Children’s Legal Services grants. Funded projects include Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County’s program to combat the school-to-jail pipeline, Florida Legal Services’ work to end juvenile solitary confinement and the Seminole County Bar Association Legal Aid Society’s plans for helping foster youth go to college.
“With these grants, the Foundation hopes to increase the range of legal strategies such as direct representation, administrative and policy advocacy, community lawyering and legislative advocacy available to low-income Floridians,” said Kate York, the Foundation’s grant program officer. “As grantees collaborate, maximize resources and leverage assets, they will strengthen the civil legal aid delivery system.”
The Innocence Project of Florida, which processes almost 1,000 requests each year from inmates who believe they were wrongly convicted, will receive $380,000 in funding through the Administration of Justice (AOJ) grant program. Also through AOJ, Florida Justice Technology Center was awarded $350,000 in general support to continue multiple legal technology projects, and $351,000 to transition its online legal triage project from a piloted version in Clay County to all 67 Florida counties.
As pro bono work has become a priority at the Foundation, it will model the Pro Bono Transformation and Innovation grants after the Legal Services Corporations’ Pro Bono grant program to develop and enhance pro bono programs that serve low-income Floridians to improve the reach, quality, and effectiveness of services. Legal Services of Greater Miami and a joint effort by Legal Services of North Florida and the Legal Aid Foundation of the Tallahassee Bar Association won transformation grants of $100,000.
The Loan Repayment Assistance Program will provide $5,000 each to 196 legal aid attorneys to help them pay down and reduce their student loan debt. The program works to strengthen and expand legal assistance for the poor by supporting the recruitment and retention of the most qualified civil legal aid staff attorneys.