Sam Buchanan, is with the Mississippi Center for Legal Services Corporation and oversees offices in Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Jackson, McComb and Meridian. The group provides legal aid to those living at or below the poverty level. Buchanan says they have to prioritize the cases they take because of limited funding.
"We helping people with housing issues, foreclosure, evictions, domestic abuse, divorces, adoptions, child support, assisting persons in getting public benefits like social security and supplemental security income." said Buchanan.
Buchanan says they help at the most 18,000 Mississippians a year. But, serving even that many people could be in jeopardy. He explains that 70 percent of their budget, which is 2.5 million dollars, comes from the federal government. Buchanan says the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill to dramatically cut funding for 2016, and the measure is headed to the Senate.
"The results would be we would lose staff and have to close offices." said Buchanan.
Buchanan says they have 48 full and part-time staff. Tiffany Graves is with Access Justice, an organization commissioned by the Mississippi Supreme Court to develop ways to provide more legal services to the poor. She says legal-aid programs have endured a series of cuts in recent years.
"We want to do everything we can to let our legislators know that this is a service that can't bare any additional funding cuts." said Graves.
Sam Buchanan says, the budget cuts would also impact the North Mississippi Legal Services program, which has offices in Clarksdale, Greenville, Oxford and West Point.