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Westchester Budget Cuts Worry Legal Services Of Hudson Valley

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley provides free civil legal services in the lower Hudson Valley, including Westchester County, to vulnerable and disadvantaged low-income individuals and families.
Legal Services of the Hudson Valley provides free civil legal services in the lower Hudson Valley, including Westchester County, to vulnerable and disadvantaged low-income individuals and families. Photo Credit: lshv.org

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Legal Services of the Hudson Valley is concerned that the proposed 2016 Westchester County budget will greatly limit its ability to serve its low-income clients.

County Executive Rob Astorino introduced a proposed $1.8 billion budget for the 2016 fiscal year Nov. 13 that doesn't increase taxes for the sixth straight year but does cut LSHV funding by $180,000.

Founded in 1967, LSHV provides free civil legal services in the lower Hudson Valley, including Westchester County, to vulnerable and disadvantaged low-income individuals and families who have nowhere else to turn.

Last year, LSHV served over 25,000 people, including almost 9,500 children across the seven counties of the lower Hudson Valley, including Westchester, by protecting survivors of domestic violence, fighting wrongful evictions, defending seniors against abuse, advocating for veterans on the homefront, promoting children’s well-being and supporting the rights of the disabled.

Last year, the organization’s homelessness prevention program, domestic violence/family law work, supplemental income, SSI/SSD and unemployment benefits resulted in more than $13.5 million in taxpayer savings.

“Every dollar Legal Services of the Hudson Valley spends providing comprehensive civil legal services to our neighbors, means local taxpayers aren’t stuck paying for a tenfold increase in social services to house or care for individuals and families after tragedy has befallen them,” said Barbara Finkelstein, CEO of LSHV.

Kevin Edwards, a disabled man from Mount Vernon, knows firsthand how important and needed LSHV’s services are as he benefited from them. Edwards has been fighting for his disability benefits from the Social Security Administration for 10 years, with LSHV by his side the entire time. He finally won his case, and with Social Security benefits in place, he no longer needed public assistance funds. Westchester County was also reimbursed in full for the public assistance that it had provided him.

The proposed budget cut would force the organization to lay off two housing attorneys who would normally be able to prevent more than 230 evictions. Those evictions could lead to more than $2.6 million in additional shelter costs.

For more information on Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, visit www.lshv.org .

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