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Report finds legal aid adds millions to Ohio economy

LawyersThe Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation (OLAF) released an economic impact study that demonstrates that legal aid in Ohio generate millions of dollars of economic activity for the Ohio communities it serves. The report found that entire communities and neighborhoods benefit when low income Ohioans are assisted by legal aid attorneys.

“Legal aid helps not only the individual served, but the people who live down the street,” said Ohio State Bar Association member Angela Lloyd, executive director of OLAF. “Home prices are stabilized and local governments save the tax dollars typically lost to home foreclosure each time a legal aid attorney helps a homeowner prevent foreclosure. Everybody benefits from legal aid.”

Strength in Justice: Ohio’s Legal Aids Energizing Our Economy and Building Our Communities concludes that every dollar spent on legal aid operations generates an additional 115 percent of economic activity in Ohio communities. OSBA member Ritchey Hollenbaugh, president of the Foundation board, said, “Legal aid societies are a great return on investment and contribute positively to Ohio’s economy.”

In 2010, Ohio’s legal aids employed more than 620 attorneys and staff and generated $106 million in total economic impact, including $5.6 million in state, county, and municipal tax revenue, a return of 115 percent for every dollar invested.

Legal aid impacts all 88 Ohio counties. In 2010, legal aid saved almost 1,000 homes across the state from foreclosure, saving local governments millions in vacant property costs. Even one foreclosed home in a neighborhood may lower property values for other homes by as much as 2.1 percent. A home worth $135,000, the average value of a home in Ohio, would lose $2,835 of its value. By saving homes, legal aid helped protect more than $2.7 million in home value in 2010.

The study also reports that legal aid helped protect victims of domestic violence by obtaining nearly 1,000 civil protective orders in 2010. This work breaks the cycle of family violence, empowers women to keep working, keeps children in school, and avoids housing issues.

“We now have hard statistical data that should fundamentally change the discussion about the importance of legal aid,” said Lloyd. “In addition to the issues of fairness and justice, legal aid should now be looked at in light of its economic benefits, and its ability to stabilize Ohio families, neighborhoods and communities.”

The Ohio General Assembly created OLAF in 1994 to fund and to enhance civil legal aid for low income Ohioans. The Foundation uses no general revenue funds, but rather, utilizes dollars earned from the interest on lawyers trust accounts, the interest on real estate trust account funds, and a civil filing fee surcharge to ensure that low income veterans, children and victims of domestic violence, and people facing foreclosure have access to legal information, advice and representation. 

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