Dana is a Program Manager for OneJustice’s Healthy Nonprofits Program, as well as a member of OneJustice’s Policy Advocacy Team.
Which field of policy work do you primarily focus on?
I focus on federal and state policy that impacts low-income Californians and legal aid. We advocate every year on the need to increase the federal Legal Services Corporation (“LSC”) funding. LSC funds eleven legal aid organizations in California that serve low-income individuals in every county, and collectively these organizations provide services to approximately one-third of Californians that seek help from legal aid in the state each year. On the state level, we stay apprised of changes at the State Bar and any legislative action that will impact legal aid or the individuals they serve. This year in particular, there has been a lot of movement on all levels to try to address the needs stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak.
How does OneJustice’s policy team work intersect with the work you do in your role for OneJustice?
Policy really does impact everything we do at OneJustice on some level. Our work on federal policy impacts our relationships with the organizations that receive federal funding, through LSC or otherwise. Similarly, on the state level, our advocacy related to rule changes or funding increases directly impacts our work with other legal aid organizations and their ability to send their employees to our capacity building programs.
Can you provide a few examples of actions you or the policy team have taken in 2020?
Before the COVID-19 lockdown, we sent a small team to Sacramento to participate in the Legal Aid Association of California’s lobby day where we met with multiple legislators and their staff to discuss the importance of legal aid. As things began to close down, the American Bar Association’s Lobby Days in Washington D.C. switched to a virtual convening where I was still able to advocate for the importance of robustly funding LSC and expanding broadband access across the nation. In addition, we have been able to participate in two other virtual lobby convenings where we met with legislators and staff to discuss specific bills that impact the communities we serve. The ability to attend meetings in a virtual space has increased our ability to be involved in conversations occurring across the state on a vast array of issues including the State Bar’s Paraprofessional working group, and remote hearing and eviction related concerns.
What are some important bills or laws that our supporters should be aware of right now?
What we really need to see on a federal level is another COVID-19 relief bill. The CARES Act was passed at the end of March and provided important relief for those impacted by the pandemic. In the last seven months, we have seen additional relief packages fail in Congress due to partisan bickering and leadership that is failing to protect our most vulnerable. It is essential that the federal government act to protect people that have been devastated by bad policy and the pandemic. The California State Legislature will be back in session in December and it’s likely we will see new legislation introduced to extend pandemic protections. While we wait for important bills to be introduced, you can still contact your legislators, both federal and state, and express to them the importance for coronavirus related protections and stress that the people it most directly impacts cannot wait.