Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network Comments on New Federal Poverty Data and Mortgage Foreclosure Data


Pennsylvania Legal Aid NetworkYesterday, September 16, 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau released its official 2009 statistics on poverty in this report, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009.

The Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network (PLAN) notes the report is cause for concern for Pennsylvanians.

Nationally, nearly 57 million Americans are now poor enough to qualify for civil legal assistance. This is an increase of 3 million from 2008. Of the 57 million, 19.6 million were children. In just one year, the national poverty rate increased by a full percentage; from 13.2% in 2008 to 14.3% in 2009. The number of people in poverty in 2009 is the largest number in the 51 years for which poverty estimates have been published. The poverty rate for children rose even more dramatically.

The report reveals that children make up about 35% of the poverty population and people over 65 make up nearly 10% of the poverty population (those at or below 125% of the poverty level).

Also yesterday, RealtyTrac released its report on mortgage foreclosures in Pennsylvania which have increased by 15% over the same period two years ago and compared to one year ago. Pennsylvania’s foreclosure rate is growing at a higher rate than the national increase. “Pennsylvania’s legal aid programs are now reporting a 61% increase in new home ownership and mortgage foreclosure cases for clients facing loss of their homes this year, compared to last year,” said Sam Milkes, Executive Director of PLAN.

Gerald McHugh, President of the Board of the PLAN, added, “We are not surprised by these new numbers. Our legal aid programs are experiencing a major increase in the numbers of Pennsylvanian’s requesting help and the problems they are facing are more urgent than ever. With more people out of work, there are more who are eligible for our services, and they are facing problems that justify our involvement. We are able to help many in need but also have to turn away many, whom we just cannot serve, due to limits on our funding.”

Sam Milkes, noted, “The PLAN civil legal aid programs cover every county in the state. They represent about 100,000 clients annually. We are seeing increases in domestic violence, in foreclosures, in the need for health insurance, and in many other legal concerns of our clients. Our programs are doing the best they can to meet the needs of these clients, while the programs themselves face funding shortfalls too, due to cutbacks.”

“These poverty and foreclosure numbers are likely to continue to grow, creating even greater challenges for legal aid programs,” said Milkes. “Even now, for every person helped by a legal aid program in Pennsylvania, one is turned away, despite being eligible for services and having a legal problem the person needs to be addressed.”