The organization has 24 attorneys to serve clients in 13 counties and farm workers throughout the state. It has lost six attorneys to budget cuts since January 2011.
Congress set up the sequestration cuts to be so odious that members of both parties would compromise on better ways to cut the federal budget. They avoided the "fiscal cliff" on Jan. 1 with a last-minute plan that delayed the automatic cuts until March 1. But in that time, Congress has still not passed a plan to avoid sequestration.
Last year, even without the sequester cuts, an LSC survey found the nation's civil legal aid agencies were on pace to lay off 350 attorneys and 400 support staff in 2012 because of budget cuts from Congress and other funding reductions (NYLJ, Aug. 17, 2012).
Legal aid groups also are being squeezed because of reduced funding from other sources, such as Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts, known as IOLA funding. At the same time, high unemployment rates have increased the number of people needing help.
In New York, the impact of any cuts would be softened somewhat by the passage of a state budget that would increase to $40 million from $25 million court system grants to legal services.
"Our hope is that we'll be able to get some of that funding that will lessen the impact of any sequestration-related cuts," Rasmussen said.
Moreover, to cope with the impact of Hurricane Sandy, the organization has done enough extra fundraising recently to tide it over should the cuts occur, Rasmussen said.
Last year, the Republican-led House passed a bill that would cut another 6 percent from LSC's current budget. The House proposal of $328 million, when adjusted for inflation, would be an all-time low for the 38-year-old organization, according to a recent report from the Conference of Chief Justices.
The Democratic-led Senate Appropriations Committee approved the full amount of President Barack Obama's 2013 budget request for the LSC at $402 million. That would be a 16 percent increase from the 2012 budget of $348 million, and would return funding to 2011 levels.
The two chambers never hashed out a deal.
@|Todd Ruger, a reporter for The National Law Journal, an affiliate, can be contacted at email@example.com. Tania Karas contributed to this report.