Oklahoma Legal Aid Faces Funding Problem

Monday, December 1st 2008, 11:01 pm
By: News 9

By Colleen Chen, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY - With the economic recession, more Oklahomans are using free legal service, but with more residents needing help, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma is facing funding problems.

Legal Aid already serves close to 20,000 Oklahomans, but on any given day, the need is actually double.

But that was before economic troubles began, and now funding is needed more than ever.

Billy Jones spent his life driving trucks. Now his work is reflected in prized photos on a wall. Jones was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease two years ago, and now he's in a wheelchair.

"I was driving trucks working six or seven days a week, and now I can't even turn a key," Jones said.

He's lost his ability to stand or walk and that change of pace is reflected in the Jones' bank account

"From around $1,000 a week to about $1,200 a month," Jones said.

With his muscles shutting down, Jones knew he would soon need his wife to take over signing things for him, but couldn't afford an attorney to file the documents...until they called Legal Aid, which got it done for free.

"It was a big relief it really was," Jones said.

They are just two of thousands of people who need Legal Aid's free services. Unfortunately, financial problems are having a negative impact on Legal Aid's pro-bono work.

"Almost 50 percent of our funding is from private sources, and those are being hit hard during this economic turbulence," Gayla Machell with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma said. "We have one large funder that cut back 20 percent from last year."

If the financial problems aren't fixed, people like Billy Jones will have no one to turn to for legal help. To make matters worse, Legal Aid has more clients than ever and they expect that number to grow as economic problems continue.

Click here to find out more about Legal Aid Services and how you can help.