Kudos to Nikole Nelson of Alaska Legal Services Corp., or ALSC, for calling out the governor’s slash to the ALSC budget. She points out that 818 Alaskans will be turned away from getting legal help at the lowest points in their lives. These folks from all over the state are in desperate straits, and have nowhere else to turn for representation.
I am a retired licensed clinical social worker who worked for the U.S. Army Alaska — pre-JBER — as a victim advocate, and for the Alaska VA health care system, where it was my privilege to work with veterans. Those 29% of victims of domestic violence who will not be able to access ALSC services will be at risk for continued harm. The 10% who are veterans will be unable to get help with housing, safety and financial problems. It is a mockery to verbally honor our seniors, then sharply reduce availability of legal help. I have seen the desperation in the faces of people who are at risk and have nowhere else to turn, and have great admiration for ALSC’s advocacy on their behalf.
There are many places in this vast state where legal services are minimal, many of which see Alaskans living on the edge of crises. Must people who face illegal eviction or foreclosure join the ranks of the homeless because there is no affordable legal representation?
If a society is measured by how it cares for its most vulnerable citizens, this veto slumps Alaska downward. This budget cut is not trimming a frill or putting a small crimp in our lifestyle. It is putting our fellow Alaskans at risk for — at the very least — financial hardship and, at worst, their lives.
— Sue Ellen May
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