Taking a Look at Food Stamps in Montana

Food Stamps in Montana…

During the holiday season, when plates get piled high with family meals, this becomes the hallmark image of how people celebrate and eat around this time of year.

However, thinking about how food gets to those plates is a different image.  Many people may not consider those using Food Stamps to purchase food during the holidays, and year round.  People may also not know that 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the Food Stamp program.   Now known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP for short, it provides a wide range of people (single households, families with children, elderly, and people with disabilities) with low incomes more food security.  With the year winding down, here is some information about Food Stamps in Montana.  

Hunger

  • 1 in 5 Americans have difficulty affording food.
  • 1 in 7 Montanans are affected by hunger.
  • 48,000 children in Montana live in food insecure homes.

SNAP

  • 46.5 million people are enrolled in SNAP nationwide.
  • In 2011, Montanans received $193.3 million in food benefits.
  • Almost 125,000 Montanans receive SNAP monthly.
  • In 2013, the average monthly benefit per person was $124.65 with a household average of $269.73.

Economic Activity

  • Each dollar in SNAP benefits creates $1.80 in economic activity.
  • In 2013, $1 billion in SNAP benefits supported 8,900 to 17,900 jobs.  Including 3,000 farm jobs.
  • In 2009-2011 82% of Montanan households receiving SNAP had 1 or more worker. 

Access to Benefits

          – 58% of respondents receive SNAP benefits.  Of the remaining respondents not on SNAP, 32% said they didn’t know they would be eligible.

          – SNAP still only reaches about 75% of eligible people in Montana.

To see if you are eligible, and to apply for SNAP visit http://www.dphhs.mt.gov/hcsd/snap

To screen a client for SNAP eligibility visit Bridge to Benefits http://montana.bridgetobenefits.org/

To find the nearest Office of Public Assistance visit http://dphhs.mt.gov/contact/humancommunityservices

You can find the MFBN Hungry in Montana 2014 report http://mfbn.org/learn/outreach-education/research-and-reports

Resources for this article:

http://www.fns.usda.gov/ops/snap-community-characteristics-montana

http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/err-economic-research-report/err116.aspx#.UkCsxH82fNJ

http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3239

http://frac.org/initiatives/american-recovery-and-reinvestment-act/snapfood-stamps-provide-real-stimulus/

http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap

Posted in Public Benefits Tagged with: , ,

MLSA to Develop Comprehensive No-Cost Legal Services for Victims of Crime

police carMontana Legal Services Association (MLSA), in partnership with the Montana Board of Crime Control (MBCC), will implement the Vision 21 Victim Legal Assistance Network (Network), providing comprehensive, wraparound, no-cost legal services for victims of crime through a coordinated network of providers.

The Network will assess crime victims’ legal needs across the state, including on tribal reservations, and design a detailed implementation plan for providing victims with necessary legal services and referrals through MLSA and project partners. Partners will include state agencies, service providers, and legal partners.

The funding will allow MLSA and its partners to provide access to comprehensive, coordinated, and holistic legal services throughout Montana for victims of crime. Crimes ranging from identity theft to elder abuse, financial fraud to domestic and sexual assault leave victims with emotional and physical damage. Add in the need for an attorney, and victims are left feeling overwhelmed, confused, and frustrated by all the needs related to their victimization.

The Vision 21 Network is supported by a grant from the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime to MBCC in the amount of $299,027.  MBCC also contract with Professor Jackson Bunch at the Criminology Research Group of the Social Science Research Lab at the University of Montana to develop the project.

Roundup Web.com Article

Posted in Uncategorized

Need Affordable Health Insurance?

Enroll Now

November 15, 2014 marked the Open Enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. This makes health insurance available for some low income Montanans. The Open Enrollment is for both people who are new to the marketplace, looking to get health insurance for the first time, and for those renewing coverage from last year.

The application process has changed slightly from last year, and so have dates and deadlines.

New User-Friendly Application
 
For those who are new to the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace www.healthcare.gov there is a more user friendly application this year.  The new application should cut down the amount of pages in the application people experience when applying online. However, some people with more complicated situations may need to use a longer application.

 
Enrollment Deadlines

There is also some important information about deadlines.  

  • For health care coverage to begin at the start of the year, January 1, 2015, the enrollment deadline is December 15th, 2014. 
  • February 15, 2015 is the last day to enroll for coverage.  Missing this deadline means that you won’t be able to sign up for health coverage for the rest of 2015. 
  • In some specific cases there is a Special Enrollment Period.  For example, if you experience life changes (marriage, having a baby, job changes, etc.) outside of the enrollment period, then you may be eligible to enroll through special enrollment.  

Important Dates

Sign Up Date

Health Coverage Begins

Nov. 15 – Dec. 15, 2014

Jan. 1, 2015

Dec. 16, 2014 – Jan. 15, 2015

Feb. 1, 2015

Jan. 16 – Feb. 15, 2014

Mar. 1, 2015

Montana has not expanded its Medicaid eligibility.  This means that even though people may be low income, they are not eligible for a health care subsidy or Medicaid.  To see if you are eligible, get started by applying here or by going to www.healthcare.gov.

For more general information on how to apply, and guides about possible coverage, also visit www.healthcare.gov

There is more information about the Affordable Care Act and the healthcare marketplace at http://www.montanalawhelp.org/issues/public-benefits/health-insurance-marketplace

And for even more information about health care in general, including forms, FAQ’s, and articles visit the Public Benefits section of MontanaLawHelp.org.


Much of the information in this post was found through the National Health Law Help Program, in an article here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Health Care, Public Benefits Tagged with: ,

MLSA Receives Funding from the Sample Foundation

The Sample Foundation, a private family foundation located in Billings, has granted $10,000 to Montana Legal Services Association  to help purchase a reliable, safe vehicle for legal aid advocates to reach rural, remote, and Native American clients. MLSA attorneys serving remote clients frequently drive anywhere from one to 12 hours, longer in winter, making a reliable vehicle a necessity for providing advocacy.

With Sample Foundation support, MLSA casehandlers can safely travel to ensure rural Montanans have fair access to our justice system, help domestic violence survivors and their children start new lives, assist to preserve their incomes, and help tenants and homeowners stay in their homes. MLSA has great gratitude toward  the Sample Foundation for enabling it to continue to serve its clients through this gift.

More information about the Sample Foundation can be found here.

Posted in Access to Justice, American Indian Issues Tagged with: , ,

MLSA to Create Updated Interactive Family Law Forms for Self-Represented Litigants

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) has granted $52,946 to enable Montana Legal Services Association to create new interactive family law forms for self-represented litigants. Interactive forms allow a computer user to answer questions in an online interview. The answers populate the forms, which can then be printed, emailed, or saved for further editing.

The new forms will replace outdated interactive forms and will be approved by the Montana Access to Justice Commission Self-Represented Litigants Committee. The forms will be available on www.MontanaLawHelp.org as well as the State Law Library/Montana Supreme Court websites.

LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans in the nation, promoting equal access to justice and providing grants for high-quality civil legal aid. LSC has funded many MLSA technology-oriented projects through its Technology Initiatives Grants (TIG) program. MLSA appreciates the opportunity to use the current TIG funding to help ensure fairness for all family law litigants in Montana.

Posted in Access to Justice, Announcements Tagged with: , , ,

Pro Bono Celebration Week

Celebrate Pro Bono 2011 image badge small

Do you know that this week is a National Pro Bono Celebration?

At Montana Legal Services Association, we like to celebrate Pro Bono attorneys and legal professionals all year long. Pro Bono legal professionals make justice happen for many Montanans. MLSA appreciates Pro Bono professionals and we know their clients do, too.

 

Law Student Pro Bono Service Award

Law student Tobias Cook (pictured here with Judge Karen Townsend and Attorney Gary Connelley) was honored as this year’s recipient of the Montana Law Student Pro Bono Service Award. The award-including a $500 check donated by Crowley Fleck, PLLP- was given to Mr. Cook on Friday, October 17th at the Missoula County Courthouse. The Montana Law Student Pro Bono Service Award is provided annually in October by MLSA and the University of Montana School of Law to a third year law student who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to public service and pro bono legal work during their law school career.

A deserving candidate, Mr. Cook donated over 130 hours to volunteer legal work outside classroom over the last three years. His involvement in pro bono has ranged from being a regular volunteer with the Montana Innocence Project to working with social studies students at St. Joseph’s middle school, educating them about law and assisting with their mock trial. Toby’s passion when it comes to the law is public service and working with underserved populations. He is vocal in his commitment to continue providing pro bono assistance to indigent Montanans after graduating law school.


Montana Businesses Donate to Recognize Pro Bono Attorneys

Montana pro bono attorneys are being recognized this week by several businesses from across the state who donated gifts. MLSA thanks and commends the following businesses for recognizing the efforts of the pro bono attorneys who help obtain justice for all Montanans regardless of their incomes:

Casagranda’s Steakhouse, Butte

Great Burn Brewing Co., Missoula

Philipsburg Brewing Co., Philipsburg

Plonk Wine, Missoula and Bozeman

Rialto Community Theatre, Deer Lodge

Whitefish Theatre Co., Whitefish

Windbag Saloon & Grill, Helena

Posted in Access to Justice, Pro Bono

MLSA Receives Funding from Steele-Reese Foundation

The Steele-Reese Foundation has granted $30,000 to Montana Legal Services Association to support civil legal assistance to rural Montanans living in poverty. The funding will help assure fairness for all in the justice system by protecting low-income Montanans’ legal rights related to their basic needs: housing, economic security, freedom from abuse, and more.
family on porchThe Steele-Reese Foundation is a charitable trust committed to supporting rural communities in Idaho, Montana, and Appalachian Kentucky. The Foundation maintains a focus on the unique challenges of rural living and on helping people build healthy, successful, and sustainable communities.

MLSA gives a full-hearted thanks to the Steele-Reese Foundation for this funding that will help enforce the rights of low-income and rural Montanans, ensuring equal justice for all.

Posted in Access to Justice, Announcements

MLSA Receives Innovative Community Improvement Award

Citing Montana Legal Services Association's (MLSA) technology and service delivery innovations to improve Montana communities, the Montana Board of Crime Control (MBCC) presented the 2014 Innovative Community Improvement Award to MLSA during MBCC's annual Crime Prevention Conference on October 8, 2014.

The award is given to individuals or organizations that have made impacting and lasting contributions through specific campaigns or programs to promote or support significant improvements within their communities, such as improving quality of life, reducing the fear of crime, or providing measurable positive results.


State of Montana Office of Consumer Protection and Victim Services Director Matthew Dale nominated MLSA for this year's award and MLSA staff were on hand at the conference banquet to receive the award.

Posted in Access to Justice, Announcements

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic Violence Awareness Month RibbonDo you know that October is domestic violence awareness month? Domestic violence, relationship abuse, stalking, sexual assault . . . All such forms of violence are more common than we like to admit. Sometimes we suspect someone we know is a victim but we don't know what to do. Often it seems easier to look the other way, change the subject, think about something else. Sometimes we try to deny the fact that we, ourselves, suffer domestic violence. But these forms of violence will not go away on their own. We must identify them, call them what they are, stand up to them, help those who suffer, help ourselves. We can do that most readily–and safely–through education, understanding, and using tools and resources that have been developed for that purpose.

Fortunately there are many resources to help.

If you are in danger right now, call 911.

Posted in Domestic/Sexual/Dating Violence and Stalking Tagged with: , ,

Nominate a Law Student for Pro Bono Award

 

Scales of JusticeNominations are open now until October 3, 2014, for the Montana Law Student Pro Bono Service Award.

The award is a collaborative effort between the University of Montana Law School, private firms and attorneys, Montana Legal Services Association, and the local judiciary to recognize the outstanding volunteer work of law students. The award is given annually in October during National Pro Bono week to a 3L student who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to public service-in particular the field of pro bono legal work.

Students can either apply for the award or be nominated by a third party. See the criteria and how to apply or nominate a law student here.

Posted in Access to Justice, Pro Bono Tagged with: , ,

MLSA Awarded Pro Bono Innovation Grant / Director Alison Paul Speaking on Innovation at LSC 40th Anniversary

Pictured: Alison Paul Receiving Grant Award at LSC 40th Anniversary

MLSA is honored to be among the inaugural recipients of a new national pro bono initiative by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to address the civil legal needs of low-income people.

The $141,087 two-year grant will fund the Montana Pro Bono Connect project to support and enhance the current work of Montana pro bono professionals by expanding capacity to provide legal advice and brief services as well as to create new pro bono opportunities. The project will develop and implement innovative strategies and technological tools that will help pro bono attorneys provide services to clients throughout the state, including remote services.  

MLSA is a nationally recognized innovator among civil legal aid providers, particularly in the development of technological tools to increase access to justice. MLSA Executive Director Alison Paul is currently in Washington, D.C, for a ceremonial award of the grant, as well as to serve as a panelist at LSC’s 40th Anniversary on the topic of innovation to increase access to justice.

Established in 1974, LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans in the nation, promoting equal access to justice and providing grants for high-quality civil legal aid.

LSC's 40th Anniversary celebration has been marked by several days of panels. Anniversary speakers include US Vice President Joe Biden, US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, US Associate Attorney General Tony West, as well as many others.


     MLSA Board President Andy Patten on Break During 40th                 US Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan

 

 

 

Posted in Access to Justice Tagged with: , ,

MLSA Justice For Montanans Members Serve and Celebrate for AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary

"Montana is a better place to live, to work, to raise a family because of the investment of time, energy and enthusiasm of AmeriCorps members." — Governor Steve Bullock

MLSA Justice for Montanans members join Governor Bullock in a service project during the AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary. L-R: Gareth Ford, Andrew Martinez, Meghan Flannery, Gov. Steve Bullock, Eric Parsons, Nolan Harris.

In honor of the AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary, MLSA Justice for Montanans members joined fellow AmeriCorps members in completing a service project as well as celebrating the special occasion at the State Capitol.

Members were honored to be joined by Governor Bullock in completing a bridge-building project as well as at anniversary festivities.

MLSA Justice For Montanans members joined AmeriCorps members across the nation in celebrating AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary.

AmeriCorps engages more than 75,000 Americans in intensive service each year at nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country. MLSA Justice for Montanans members help to provide access to justice for Montanans at MLSA offices, Self Help Law Centers, the State Bar of Montana, and the Office of Consumer Protection and Victim Services.


Watch MLSA Justice for Montanans member Meghan Flannery talk about her service in AmeriCorps (KXLH)

Read about MLSA Justice for Montanans member Larken Yackulic's experience with AmeriCorps (Helena Independent Record)

 

Posted in Access to Justice, Justice for Montanans Tagged with: , , ,

MLSA Cheers for Charity Fundraiser – Missoula – Sept 9

Draughtworks MissoulaCome join the fun at the MLSA Cheers for Charity Fundraiser in Missoula on Sept 9 at Draught Works and support MLSA!

Draughtworks will donate $0.50 from each pint sold between 5-8pm to support MLSA projects.

This is our second year at Draught Works' "Cheers for Charity" and after much success last fall we are hoping for another great night! Come on out, say hi, and have a pint!

Check out our Facebook event here.

Draughtworks is located at 915 Toole Ave, Missoula, Montana 59802. Phone (406) 541-1592.

Posted in Announcements Tagged with: , , ,

MLSA Trains Law Enforcement at Rocky Boy’s Reservation

MLSA training law enforcement

MLSA staff attorney Jennifer Hill-Hart recently trained law enforcement at Rocky Boy's Reservation on domestic violence issues.

Alongside trainers from the FBI, Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and others, Ms. Hill-Hart provided information and resources on identifying domestic violence and determining predominate aggressors in domestic violence situations.

MLSA legal experts are available for training on many legal subjects. If your agency or organization is interested in training, please contact MLSA with your request.

Posted in American Indian Issues, Domestic/Sexual/Dating Violence and Stalking Tagged with: , , ,

Build Your Own Legal Case

Missoula Independent Cover

 

 

The Missoula Independent explores the challenges of pro se litigants in Montana.

Posted in Access to Justice, Self-Help, The Legal System

MLSA HelpLine Hours Changed

Red phone

Due to a staff shortage, the MLSA HelpLine hours have changed temporarily.

The new hours are:

Monday – Friday 9am-noon and 1pm-4pm

 

If you try to call the HelpLine and can't get through, please remember you can apply using our online application or mail/fax in a paper applicationEspanol.

We expect the temporary HelpLine hours to remain in effect until approximately September 12. At that time we hope to resume regular HelpLine hours (7:30am-6:00pm).

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your patience.

Posted in Announcements Tagged with:

Have Fun and Support MLSA at PintAid! (August 4)

PintAid

Come have a pint of beer and support MLSA on Monday Aug 4 at PintAid at The Garage (Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company) in Billings.

For every pint purchased, the Garage will donate $1.00 to MLSA!

The fun begins at 6pm and runs through 8pm. We're going to have a rocking band and some lively legal trivia. All that and good beer with $1 per pint donated to civil legal aid—It doesn't get any better than that!

 

Posted in Access to Justice, Support Tagged with: , , ,

MLSA Congratulates Crime Victim Advocates of the Year

Kelly Erickson-HAVEN (Bozeman), Angie Fox-Yellowstone County Attorney's Office (Billings), and Janel Pliley, Adult Protective Services (Powell County), were recently recognized for their exemplary service in 2014 by Montana's Attorney General Tim Fox.

Jan Berry, MLSA Supervising Attorney-Domestic Violence Practice Group, wrote a letter of recommendation for Ms. Erickson and presented at a ceremony in Bozeman.

MLSA attorneys and legal staff work closely with victim advocates across the state on individual cases, policies and procedures, and education for both the public and professionals working with crime victims. MLSA congratulates the crime victim advocates of 2014.

Learn more about MLSA's Domestic Violence Practice Group here.

Posted in Domestic/Sexual/Dating Violence and Stalking Tagged with: , ,

MLSA Wins Commuter Challenge

MLSA's Missoula office has won Missoula's "Commuter Challenge" in the small non-profit category for the second year in a row.

Missoula in Motion

The challenge, a week-long event encouraging people to adapt sustainable forms of commuting to work, is sponsored by Missoula in Motion.

 

Way to go Missoula MLSA!

Posted in Announcements, Uncategorized Tagged with: ,

Montana Supreme Court Case Helps Homeowners

MT Supreme Court Decision, Morrow vs. Bank of America, N.A.

The Montana Supreme Court recently entered a decision in Morrow v. Bank of America, N.A., that may help Montanans who have experienced abuse or misconduct at the hands of their mortgage loan servicers and/or are in the foreclosure process.   

The homeowners in the case, the Morrows, made several claims in District Court against Bank of America about the servicing of their mortgage.  Several claims related to discussions between bank employees and the Morrows, such as instructions to the Morrows to skip a payment intentionally and to ignore notices of acceleration. The Morrows also asserted that bank employees repeatedly told them over the phone that they were approved for a modification, but they received letters denying their applications for modification and ultimately received notice of a scheduled trustee’s sale of their property. 

The District Court granted summary judgment to the bank on all of the Morrows’ claims, in essence ending their suit without any relief for them.


The Morrows appealed to the Montana Supreme Court, asking that the summary judgment on their claims be reversed.  MLSA filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief with the Montana Supreme Court, supporting the Morrows’ appeal. During oral argument, the justices asked the attorneys for the Morrows and the bank questions about MLSA’s brief, including questions about the nature of a mortgage servicer’s duty to a borrower.


On May 7, the Montana Supreme Court reversed the District Court's order with respect to several of the homeowners’ claims, including actual fraud, constructive fraud, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, and violation of the Montana Consumer Protection Act.  This means the Morrows can now take those claims to trial. The decision allows the Morrows a chance to have a jury decide their claims and opens the door to other homeowners with similar claims to try their cases. It also clarifies several aspects of Montana law about the standards mortgage servicers must meet, and will help to promote servicers’ compliance with those standards in the future.

More Information:

Last Best News article

Billings Gazette article

The full version of the Montana Supreme Court’s decision is available here.  A synopsis of the decision is available here.

Posted in Consumer Tagged with: , , , ,

MLSA Holds Legal Clinic for Remote Clients Using Computer Tablets

MLSA recently held a clinic using computer tablets that allowed an MLSA attorney located in Missoula to give “face-to-face” legal advice to clients in another community.


MLSA staff attorney Diana Garrett and each clinic participant used specially formatted tablets to discuss the participant’s case. Ms. Garrett and the participants were able to view and speak to one another using the tablets, as well as to review documents.


The participants, domestic violence survivors with family law issues, reported that using the tablets was a positive experience and more helpful than simply using the telephone because of the ability to see the attorney with whom they were speaking. Ms. Garrett also found using the tablets more helpful in providing advice to clients than speaking over the telephone and a valuable experience.

A Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grant funded MLSA’s purchase of the tablets. MLSA will continue to use the tablets to provide more services to remote clients throughout Montana in clinics as well as through other means.

Posted in Uncategorized

MLSA to Provide Services at Veteran Stand Downs Across Montana

US FlagMLSA is pleased to attend Veteran Stand Downs across Montana this spring through fall.

MLSA AmeriCorps "Justice for Montanans" members, MLSA staff, and Justice for Montanans members from the Montana Court Help Program and the Montana Office of Consumer Protection will provide general legal information, self-help resources, and legal referrals to Stand Down attendees.

Veteran Stand Downs provide homeless veterans with life resources such as food, clothing, healthcare, legal help, job counseling, etc. More than that, Stand Downs also help to provide struggling veterans with a sense of community and acceptance.

Vietnam veterans Robert Van Keuren and Dr. Jon Nachinson held the first Veteran Stand Down in 1988 in the city of San Diego. Since then, Stand Downs have grown in popularity, and events are now held in hundreds of locations across the nation every year.


See Facebook and Twitter for up-to-date information on these and more Stand Downs we plan to attend.

May 10 – Anaconda: Anaconda Armory / 101 Polk Ave / Saturday 9am-4pm (MLSA will not attend Sunday.)

May 31 – Kalispell

June 7 – Bozeman         

June 28 – Missoula: 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Missoula Armed Forces Reserve Center (New Armory) 9883 Running W Road, Missoula (Across from Yogi Bears Jellystone Park on Hwy 93 North)

June 28- Trout Creek: 8am to approx. 1pm

Trout Creek Park (9 Park Street)

August 1 and 2 – Hamilton: MLSA will attend both days from 9am – around 3pm, National Guard Armory

September 12 – Dillon: MLSA will be in attendance from 9am to 3pm, Armory Readiness Center (1070 Highway 41 N. Dillon)

October 16 – Billings, Shrine Auditorium-1125 Broadwater Ave

October 18 – Helena, St. Paul's Church, 512 Logan St


Montana Legal Services Association 

Posted in Access to Justice, Veterans and Military Tagged with: , , ,

Celebrate Law Day: Why Every Vote Matters

 

 

“Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

 

Abraham Lincoln’s words are those that most of us recognize in some form or fashion. The phrase describes our nation’s democratic ideal, that government should have only the powers that citizens give it.

Voting is the way that we, ordinary people, give the government its powers. Take away our right to vote and you take away our democracy. Over the years however, there have been many struggles and challenges in providing all Americans the means to vote. Even today, not everyone can easily and freely exercise his or her right to vote.

This Law Day we encourage you to learn more about the importance of voting rights, and to reflect on how honoring every American’s right to vote is the only way to preserve our democracy for which so many have fought and given their lives.

Learn More

American Bar Association President Silkenat on why every vote matters:

Voting Rights – Wikipedia

Voting Rights – US Department of Justice

 

Posted in Access to Justice Tagged with: , , ,

April is Fair Housing Month!

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, familial status or disability in the sale or rental of housing.

http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/images/hudimg?id=Are_You_a_Victim.png

If you are a Montanan who has experienced housing discrimination, there is help. You can:

  • Contact Montana Fair Housing at: (406) 782-2573 / 1-800-929-2611   Montana Relay: 711- (406 782-2573 / 800-929-2611
  • View Montana Fair Housing's website by clicking here.
  • Read more about the Fair Housing Act, Fair Housing Month, or learn about filing a housing discrimination complaint directly with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),  by clicking here.
Posted in Access to Justice, Housing Tagged with: ,

New MLSA Pro Bono Program Coordinator

WagenhalsAngie1_web

Angie Wagenhals is MLSA’s Pro Bono Coordinator


MLSA is pleased to announce that Angie Wagenhals is MLSA’s full-time pro bono coordinator.

Angie has worked with MLSA since 2011 as a program assistant with pro bono coordination duties, but now will dedicate all her time to support pro bono and help expand pro bono statewide.

Among Angie's many duties are expanding legal clinics for pro se litigants with pro bono attorney instruction, as well as coordinating quarterly continuing legal education credit trainings for pro bono attorneys.

Angie can be contacted at 406/543-8343 extension 207 or awagenha@mtlsa.org.

Posted in Access to Justice, The Legal System, Uncategorized Tagged with: , ,

MLSA’s Alison Paul Awarded National Medical-Legal Fellowship

Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) Executive Director Alison Paul has been selected for a national medical-legal fellowship in the “Where Health Meets Justice” program. This fellowship was awarded to 24 leaders providing legal aid to the poor and is designed to improve the intersection of health and the law in each of their communities.

The program, a collaboration of the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA), with funding by the Public Welfare Foundation, will build healthcare expertise in the legal aid community so that organizations such as MLSA can better meet the legal needs of clients that affect their health.

“Legal needs related to housing, domestic violence and public benefits are inextricably linked to the health and well-being of low-income communities,” said Camille Holmes, Director for Leadership and Racial Equality at NLADA. “For decades, civil legal aid offices have worked to improve housing conditions, protect utility access and appeal benefit denials. But what has been missing is a concerted effort to align these services with the delivery of healthcare for the same populations. This fellowship aims to remedy that.”

MLSA is a non-profit law firm that empowers low-income people by providing legal information, advice, and other services free of charge, thereby protecting and enhancing the civil legal rights of, and promoting systemic change for, Montanans living in poverty.
While MLSA has a long-standing partnership with Riverstone Health in Billings to assist with the legal needs of its patients, participation in the fellowship program will allow MLSA to learn new funding strategies and opportunities within the healthcare sector, as well as to strengthen the organization’s tools and processes for providing exemplary services across the state.

Paul joins twenty-three other senior level staff from legal aid agencies in 21 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as inaugural fellows. During the year-long program, a faculty of national experts in healthcare administration, policy, research and economics will guide the fellows.

Posted in Access to Justice, The Legal System Tagged with: , ,

MLSA Attorneys Honored as Champions of Justice

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MLSA is pleased to announce that MLSA attorneys Bob LaRoche and Amy Hall have been honored with the Montana Justice Foundation's (MJF) Champions of Justice awards.

Also honored are several individuals nominated by MLSA for their work with MLSA’s pro bono efforts, including Deborah Anspach, Gary Connelly, Jane Cowley, Jessica Fehr, Shannon Hathaway, Diane Kaatz, Marijo MacDonald, and Sheila Verlanic.

Part of MJF's 35th Anniversary, the awards honor 35 Montanans who have made significant contributions to the law over the last three-and-a-half decades.

The charitable arm of the Montana legal community, MJF's mission is to achieve equal access to justice for all Montanans through effective funding and leadership.

MLSA congratulates Mr. LaRoche and Ms. Hall, as well as all other honorees.

For more information about the awards and recipients, visit the MJF website.

 

 

 

Posted in Access to Justice, Uncategorized

MLSA Attorneys Admitted to Fort Belknap Bar

MLSA attorneys Jen Hill-Hart and Joe Hardgrave were recently admitted to the Fort Belknap Tribal Bar. Ms. Hill-Hart is also a member of the bar of the Chippewa-Cree at Rocky Boy and Mr. Hardgrave is a member of the bars of the Crow and Northern Cheyenne. Both are also admitted to the State Bar of Montana.

The Fort Belknap Indian Reservation is homeland to the Gros Ventre (Aaniiih) and the Assiniboine (Nakoda) Tribes and has a tribal membership of 7,000 enrolled members.

Find out more at these links:

MLSA Indian Law Practice Group

Fort Belknap Tribal Nation

 

Posted in Access to Justice, American Indian Issues, Announcements, The Legal System, Uncategorized Tagged with: , ,

MLSA Shares Expertise on Providing Access to Justice through Technology

Alison Paul, MLSA Executive Director, recently participated in a panel discussion in Austin, Texas, on how technological innovations can facilitate access to justice.

MLSA, known nationwide as a leader in legal aid technological innovation, participated in the panel to share information and practices towards the goal of increasing access to justice in Montana and the rest of the nation.

The panel, moderated by Legal Services Corporation (LSC) President James J. Sandman, included executive directors and lawyers from LSC-funded organizations and others in the legal aid community. Organizations that were represented included Texas Legal Services Center, Lone Star Legal Aid, Arkansas Legal Services Partnership, LSC, and Legal Aid Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.

The event was held in conjunction with a judges’ panel on the importance of access to justice to the judiciary.

Posted in Access to Justice, Technology, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , ,

Low Income Taxpayer Clinic At Tax Help Day

MLSA's Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) recently attended the Tax Help Day event in Helena, along with other tax-related service providers.

At the event, LITC presented information about LITC and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to both individuals and service providers, as well as made brochures, flyers, and palm cards available to participants.

LITC will be presenting on LITC and the EITC in Billings and Great Falls — look for news about those events in upcoming weeks.

LITC helps low-income taxpayers with federal tax issues with the IRS year-round, including:

  • Negotiations or Settlements of Tax Debt

  • Innocent Spouse Relief Requests

  • Injured Spouse Claims

  • Earned Income Tax Credit Appeals

  • Audits or Examinations

  • Deficiency Notices

  • Tax Court

  • Liens and Levies

  • Referrals to Tax Assistance Organizations

(LITC does NOT help prepare tax returns).

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Want to know more? Read about LITC here.

 

Posted in Access to Justice, Taxes, Uncategorized Tagged with: , ,

Legal Services for Homeless Montanans

MLSA attorneys and AmeriCorps members recently attended the Billings Community Connect and Missoula Homeless Connect events, providing legal information to approximately 300 people who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.

MLSA addressed attendees’ legal needs by providing legal topic brochures, applications, and business cards featuring information for both the MLSA HelpLine and MontanaLawHelp.org. Further, MLSA offered private consultations for attendees who needed help filling out applications and/or specific legal information for their problems.

MLSA attended the events in support of fighting poverty by providing legal services to Montanans who cannot afford attorneys. If you represent an organization that would like to inquire about MLSA’s outreach and education, please contact us here.

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Find Out More

Billings Community Connect Serves Hundreds | Billings Gazette

Missoula's Project Homeless Connect Links Services with People in Need | Missoulian

 

 

Posted in Access to Justice, Self-Help, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , ,

MLSA and the War on Poverty

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President Lyndon B. Johnson during Poverty Tour -LBJ Library photo by Cecil Stoughton


Fifty years ago in January, President Lyndon B. Johnson called for an “unconditional war on poverty.”  A year later MLSA began providing legal services to low-income Montanans and joined that fight.

How does MLSA fight poverty, you may wonder? The answer is that MLSA services result in positive economic benefits not only for clients but also for all Montanans.

According to recent studies*, the positive economic benefits of civil legal aid include:

  • Substantial economic benefits to the public through prevention of expensive events such as domestic violence, eviction, health emergencies, and access to/maintenance of public benefits that prevent financial emergencies,
  • Income for low-income people to pay for daily necessities such as food, housing, utilities and transportation, which reduces the welfare burden on state and local governments,
  • Dollars saved for debt-strapped families that in many cases prevent worse problems like eviction, foreclosure and homelessness that would impose much greater economic costs on society,
  • A permanent economic stimulus resulting from federal dollars achieved through legal aid advocates’ successful representation in matters such as SSD, SSI, Earned-Income Tax Credits (EITC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance; the dollars circulate through local economies, providing income for businesses and jobs for working people,
  • Increased tax revenues for state and local jurisdictions in the form of taxes paid by the occupants of the jobs supported by the economic stimulus,
  • Cost savings for taxpayers from legal aid’s success in addressing community-wide problems such as homelessness and domestic violence,
  • Efficiencies in the courts made possible by legal aid’s representation of clients and assistance to self-represented litigants, and
  • Economic benefits for health care providers, including Medicaid reimbursements for providing emergency care to uninsured low-income people that the providers would otherwise have to write off.

Today MLSA is as committed to “Fighting Poverty, Achieving Justice, Improving Lives” as much as ever, for the benefit of clients and all Montanans. Please join us! Get involved and/or donate.

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*Economic Benefits of Civil Legal Aid, prepared by Laura K. Abel, National Center for Access to Justice at Cardozo Law School

*Economic Impacts of Legal Aid: Civil Justice for Low-Income People Creates Ripple Effects (MIE Journal Fall 2011).

Posted in Access to Justice, Uncategorized

Support MLSA with AmazonSmile

Montana Legal Services Association

Just in time for the holiday season, Montana Legal Services Association is part of the AmazonSmile program. For each eligible purchase you make on Amazon.com, 0.5% of the sale is donated to MLSA through AmazonSmile. It’s as simple as that!

AmazonSmile supports over one million 501(c)(3) organizations, and tens of millions of Amazon products are eligible for the program. All eligible products are clearly marked “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on their product page.

Shopping through AmazonSmile is no different than regular shopping on Amazon.com. So this year, when you’re making online purchases, why not make a donation to MLSA at the same time? Follow the link below to get started.

AmazonSmile (MLSA)

Posted in Uncategorized

Tribal Nations and MLSA

During Montana's American Indian Heritage Day (Fourth Friday in September) and National Native American Heritage Month (November), we take the opportunity to look back on MLSA's collaborations with Montana's Tribal Nations. For over 30 years, MLSA has been honored to collaborate with Montana Tribal Nations to provide effective services to Tribal members both in and out of court. With MLSA, Tribal members protect their rights against illegal and unfair actions by creditors,  get repairs made so that housing is safe and healthy, build safety nets for families affected by domestic violence, and much more.

Learn More:

MLSA's Indian Law Work

 
 

Learn More about Montana's Tribal Members:

 
 
 
 
 
Posted in Access to Justice, American Indian Issues

Veterans Day

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MLSA gives honor and thanks to veterans and military members today and every day. We appreciate the sacrifices made by all on this special day and commit to providing the best legal services we can in aid of the selfless women and men who defend and support our great nation.

 

 

If you are a veteran or current military member with legal needs, there is online legal information for you at:

You can also apply for MLSA services by calling the HelpLine or submitting an application.

Thank you for your service!

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Posted in Access to Justice, Veterans and Military Tagged with: , ,

Montana Businesses Donate Prizes for Pro Bono Attorneys