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Legal Aid to close offices, cut staff

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Celeste Harris

Celeste Harris

RALEIGH, N.C. – Facing significant reductions from three of its largest funding sources, Legal Aid of North Carolina will close three offices and cut about 30 positions, leaving poor people in almost a dozen counties without free legal assistance from the nonprofit.

Legal Aid offices in Smithfield, Boone and Henderson already have stopped taking new cases and will be closed by the end of September, and offices in Rocky Mount, Winston-Salem and Sylva will see staff cuts.

State and federal appropriations were reduced this year, and support from N.C. IOLTA, a program of the North Carolina State Bar that is funded through interest lawyers earn on client trust accounts, has dropped by almost a third in the past two years.

More than 100,000 households in the affected counties are eligible for services from Legal Aid, and the offices slated for closing serve a total of about 2,000 families each year.

“At a time of tremendous financial stress on working families, the loss of these services and the economic opportunities they create is another setback to those trying to lift themselves out of poverty,” Celeste Harris, chair of Legal Aid’s board and a partner at Maynard & Harris in Winston-Salem, says in a statement.

The state’s largest provider of legal services to the poor, Legal Aid’s 150 staff attorneys provide legal representation, advice and education to a total of about 40,000 people across North Carolina’s 100 counties.

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