New Hampshire Legal Assistance

Helping to balance the scales of justice for everyone since 1971.

Statement of NHLA Executive Director Sarah Mattson Dustin on Governor's 2020-2021 Budget Proposal

Posted Feb 14, 2019


February 14, 2019

Every day, New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA) helps families across the state access justice to meet their most basic needs. We prevent homelessness and hunger. We help families keep the lights on and the fuel tank full. We keep kids in school and keep seniors safe from abuse and exploitation. We protect victims of domestic violence and help them start building safer lives for themselves and their children.

The governor’s budget released today proposes an ill-advised and short-sighted slashing of critical funding to support our work – funding that historically has had broad bipartisan support, and rarely has been politicized.

This would be a staggering, to-the-bone cut that would reduce NHLA’s state funding below where it was in the depth of the Great Recession. This would directly impact the civil legal services NHLA provides, leaving too many Granite Staters to go it alone in a complex legal system that is stacked against them.

NHLA has an almost 50-year history of serving the people of New Hampshire. From the shortage of affordable housing to services for domestic violence survivors, from the opioid epidemic to the aging population – if there’s a challenge facing everyday people in New Hampshire, NHLA is part of the solution.

Multiple studies in New Hampshire and across the country have shown that every dollar invested in civil legal aid yields dividend upon dividend in benefits, including saving cities and towns critical local tax dollars by preventing homelessness and helping people access food, health care, and other basic sustenance.

In his last budget proposal, in 2017, Governor Sununu recognized this fact, and included $1.5 million in annual funding for NHLA. The Judicial Council recommended this amount again for the coming biennium. This is the funding level we need to do our job in the next two years.

NHLA’s staff and board members and our many supporters around the state will be working in the coming months to reverse this misguided funding cut. We count on lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to recognize how vitally important and fundamentally valuable civil legal aid is to their constituents.

We ask all New Hampshire residents, if you believe in basic fairness and equal justice under the law, please call your senator and representatives and urge them to support $1.5 million a year in funding for New Hampshire Legal Assistance.