HALLOWELL, Maine — The Maine Bar Foundation has announced recipients of its 2009 discretionary grants totaling $203,950.
These grants, representing 20 percent of the foundation’s total grant funds, are dedicated to providing civil legal services to the poor and supporting the administration of justice programs, the foundation says.
The recipients of this year’s grants are: Coastal Enterprises Inc.; Juvenile Justice Clinic at University of Maine School of Law’s Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic; KIDS Legal-Medical Collaborative; Legal Services for the Elderly; Maine Administration Office of the Courts; Maine Equal Justice Partners; University of Maine School of Social Work Center on Aging; and the York County Shelter.
The MBF also awards annual grants to six civil legal aid providers in Maine: Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic; Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project; Legal Services for the Elderly; Maine Equal Justice Partners; Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project; and Pine Tree Legal Assistance.
The foundation is distributing about $590,000 to those groups in fiscal year 2009 that will end Sept. 30, according to M. Calien Lewis, the foundation’s executive director. That’s an average of what it gave the legal aid providers over the past three years.
Funding for the foundation comes from the Interest on Lawyer’s Trust Accounts, or IOLTA program. It was set up so that lawyers can place client funds that are either short-term or in small amounts into interest-bearing accounts, with that interest going to the foundation to support its charitable work.
All banks in Maine are required to participate in the program. Eleven banks that do business in Maine are considered to be Prime Partner Institutions for agreeing to pay a higher interest rate on these accounts than on others, according to the press release.
Auburn Savings Bank, Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, 1st Federated Savings & Loan Association of Bath, Katahdin Trust Co., Kennebec Savings Bank, Machias Savings Bank, Northeast Bank, Ocean National Bank, Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution and TD Banknorth agreed to a be part of the effort to increase funds for legal aid providers.
The foundation is Maine’s only statewide nonprofit organization devoted exclusively to law-related charitable work, according to Lewis. The MBF receives 96 percent of its funding, or about $1.5 million a year, through the IOLTA Program it manages. The program has produced more than $12 million since 1985.
The primary purpose of the foundation is to support projects designed to improve access to justice, especially for low-income and socially disadvantaged populations, according to information on the foundation’s Web site. The MBF also supports law-related education.
Realizing that people in Maine are in greater need in terms of finding help with foreclosures, heating assistance, education, health care and protection from domestic abuse, the foundation has made a commitment to use its reserve funds to keep funding level for the next two years, according to a press release.
The foundation’s stance is that nonprofit foundations are not about hoarding money, according to Lewis. If now is not the time to use the “rainy day” fund, there is no time to use it, Lewis said.
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The Maine Bar Foundation grants will fund the following programs:
• Coastal Enterprises Inc.: An $11,000 grant will support a partnership between CEI and Pine Tree Legal Assistance to help provide education and outreach for foreclosure prevention programs in Maine.
• Juvenile Justice Clinic at University of Maine School of Law’s Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic: A $33,000 grant will help fund the work of the Portland-based clinic through which law students, supervised by faculty, provide high-quality representation to low-income children in the juvenile justice system and other legal pro-ceedings.
• KIDS Legal-Medical Collaborative: A $21,000 matching grant will support KIDS Legal in providing training and individual case consultation with the medical staff at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland. The grant also will be used to help provide direct representation for families with children at the hospital.
• Legal Services for the Elderly: A $25,000 grant will help fund its work providing free legal assistance to elderly in need in Aroostook County.
• Maine Administration Office of the Courts: A $10,000 grant will support its Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Service program in providing mediation for protection from harassment cases.
• Maine Equal Justice Partners: A $10,000 grant will help provide training in benefit analysis and regulation to social service providers around the state.
• University of Maine School of Social Work Center on Aging: A $4,950 grant will fund an experimental project to provide supervision for graduate students working at Legal Services for the Elderly.
• York County Shelter: A $25,000 grant will fund an attorney to work in early intervention cases as part of its homelessness prevention program.
Other grants: MBF earmarked money for two collaborative efforts by multiple legal aid providers. A $10,000 grant will be used to improve Web site outreach to clients through the nationally recognized www.helpmelaw.org. A $54,000 grant will be used to improve a uniquely supported computerized case management system used by legal aid providers across the state.
Source: Maine Bar Foundation.