Staff Writer Megan Gray’s article of May 14, “Legal aid organizations expect pandemic to increase demand in Maine,” was right on target. The need of the poor for legal aid is increasing right at the time that legal aid programs are losing funding to provide the help they need.

Another result of the pandemic is that government will fail to accomplish its goals unless the poor can access lawyers. For example, the government plan to subsidize families via the Internal Revenue Service tax system fails for the large number of poor people who are not required to file tax returns. The second solution – making payments by direct deposit – is of little help to the many poor who do not have bank accounts. Also, debt collectors are attaching bank accounts of poor people for the payment of default judgments that they obtained for unpaid credit card debt. And unemployment pandemic payments are now the target of an international fraud ring, as The New York Times reported May 17.

And, for the employed poor, there are now disputes at work that employers are violating social distancing rules and failing to provide safety equipment. If the employee does not report to work, the employer will oppose her being paid unemployment compensation.

Therefore, it is pretty clear that the poor require attorneys in all these settings. But as Megan Gray reports, the legal resources do not exist. Therefore, government should provide them as part of the pandemic relief program if it intends to accomplish its goals.


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