News Release

Texas Access to Justice Foundation 
June 25, 2020
 

Nearly 50 Prime Partner banks remain committed to funding civil legal aid, despite interest rate cuts

AUSTIN, Texas––Texas Access to Justice Foundation<(TAJF)­­––the largest state-based funding source for civil legal aid—announced today 49 of its Prime Partner banks have stepped up to continue supporting legal assistance being provided by Texas legal aid programs. These banks have chosen to continue paying higher interest rates to the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program, demonstrating their commitment to supporting low-income Texans in a most critical time.

Legal aid organizations have always been among the emergency responders in crises faced by low-income Texans, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception,” said Richard L. Tate, chair of the board of directors for the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. “By choosing to remain in our Prime Partner program, these banks are providing extra funding for essential civil legal aid that will help low-income Texans avoid disasters like eviction, foreclosure and domestic violence issues that have been made more acute by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Approximately 5.6 million Texans qualified for legal aid before the COVID-19 pandemic, as Texas is home to the second-highest number of poor people in the nation. The number of Texans qualifying for legal aid is expected to rise dramatically as unemployment increases because of the COVID-19 public health crisis. Prime Partner banks help mitigate the decline in revenue available to fund legal aid.

All attorneys who handle client funds are required to keep those funds in IOLTA accounts until they can be made available to a client. TAJF receives funding from the interest generated by these accounts and uses the money to distribute grants to legal aid providers throughout the state. This funding helps more than 150,000 Texas families each year, with the number expected to rise.

“PlainsCapital Bank is dedicated to serving our communities and one of the ways we can do that is as Prime Partner supporting the Texas IOLTA program,” said Rod Edens, executive vice president of PlainsCapital Bank in Westlake. “Given the economic impact of the public health crisis, it is more essential than ever to support Texans who may be thrust into poverty for the first time in their lives.”

Since 2007, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, which is the primary state-based funder of legal aid in Texas, has experienced a loss of more than $156 million due to declines in funding from the state’s Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program. Due to unexpected interest rate cuts in March 2020, the IOLTA program is now expected to lose approximately $1 million each month. Funds that are essential to helping many of Texas’ most vulnerable residents.

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The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (www.teajf.org), created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the leading state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The organization is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to more than 150,000 Texas families each year.

Kimberly Schmitt
512-320-0099, ext. 104
kschmitt@teajf.org

 

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