ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
Legal aid organizations in the state of Kansas that assist clients with foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment are being encouraged to apply for grant money through the Kansas Bar Foundation Community Redevelopment and Homeowners Assistance Program.
The announcement of applications for the grant money was announced late last week.
“With this program, it got started because we became a beneficiary from the Bank of America class action lawsuit that stemmed from the housing crisis in 2008, Bank of America was ordered to put money back into the states to help with foreclosure prevention,” Kansas Bar Foundation Executive Director Stacey Harden said. “The Kansas Bar Foundation became the holder of those funds, so we grant that out in a certain amount every year, and it's at the discretion of our board how much is granted out. The parameters of this program were set by the court administrator in that it has to be a legal aid organization, and it has to go toward community redevelopment and/or foreclosure prevention. Until those funds run out from what we received from Bank of America – and Kansas received slightly more than $3 million – we still have just more than $2 million to give out in this grant process. Realistically, given the current amount we typically award every year, we're going to be doing this annually for probably the next 10 years or so. We do this every year, the applications go out. We don't have very many legal aid organizations apply for this, which is why we've been doing some extra press with this lately, because there are legal aid organizations in this state that could enormously benefit from having this help and knowing it's available.”
Harden offered encouragement for legal aid organizations to apply for part of the grant funding.
“If there's a legal aid organization out there in Kansas that offers anything in the realm of homeowner assistance or foreclosure prevention (which I foresee being a big deal as the year goes on since that federal moratorium drops at the end of July), or anything related to those, we want them to apply,” Harden said. “Legal aid organizations can fill out this form and the funds can be used for administrative costs or personnel costs, so if they want to ramp up that aspect of their agency, these funds can be used for that as long as the funds are used to benefit foreclosure prevention services and help homeowners. It's not a complicated application – I've seen federal grant applications that are 30 pages long or so, and this application is nothing like that, it's very easy. We just need more people to apply so we can get this money out there so it can be used how it was intended. The application is downloadable, and it's located at http://www.ksbar.org/mpage/crha_grant. It can be submitted to us electronically, or they can fill it out manually and mail it to Lisa Leroux-Smith, Kansas Bar Foundation, CRHA Grant Program, P.O. Box 751080, Topeka, KS 66675-1080, and the application is due Sept. 3, the Friday before Labor Day. Then how the process works is we'll receive all the applications, our committee that meets in September will review all of them and then pass on its recommendations to the board, the board will approve everything in October, and then the funds will be disbursed at the beginning of January. The recipients will receive word in October or November, and then there's some other paperwork that will need to be filled and signed out.”
Harden said she and the Kansas Bar Foundation are pleased to be able to offer this grant money for legal aid organizations.
“This is what the Kansas Bar Foundation is intended to do, and things like this are part of the overall mission and values,” Harden said. “The Kansas Bar Foundation is a 501 (c)(3), so we collect contributions, memorials, things like that, for the purpose of helping Kansans who are in need of legal assistance but can't afford a lawyer, or maybe there's not a lawyer in their area. When you get away from the Kansas City and Topeka areas or Wichita, where there are several law offices to work with, there aren't really very many options in the more isolated parts of the state. So if we can put this money into the hands of legal organizations that reach Kansans, that's what we want to do, help Kansans with whatever legal aid they need they might not otherwise have access to. Like I said earlier, I think this year will be a busy year as far as housing assistance due to the moratorium ending at the end of July, so we want to make sure we can provide help to the legal aid societies that will be tackling that.”
With that in mind, Harden said she hopes to see many applications.
“I would invite as many applications as possible, and I would like to see diversity in those applications as far as the locations,” Harden said. “I'd like to see some from all corners of the state, I think that would be amazing. We know not everything happens in the metropolitan areas of the state, so I'm hopeful we'll get more applications this time around, and again, I'd like to see applications from all throughout the state. It would be great if we could give this grant money to multiple places from multiple parts of the state.”
Harden added she sees other good things from this program in the future.
“We've got funding to take us through about another 10 years or so. With that being said, our board is constantly reviewing different opportunities that would allow this program to keep going,” Harden said. “Eventually, the money we received from Bank of America is going to run out since we're giving it away, but the board is currently working on a long-term plan that, once the Bank of America funding runs out, we already have funding sources available so we can continue to offer this type of assistance to legal aid organizations. We don't think the need is ever going to go away, this is something that's been around for a long time, and we can always change and tweak some things that will help us better provide assistance for Kansans. It's a long-term project, but we're already looking ahead to how to refill the coffers so we can continue helping people.”
Overall, Harden said, she hopes the foundation will keep being a force for good in Kansas.
“We've given out slightly more than $1 million directly into Kansans' hands to help with foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment,” Harden said. “The Kansas Bar Foundation does have other opportunities, and there are other grant programs outside of this one, and those are all available to look at on our Web site. The foundation wants to help put money in the hands of people who provide legal services – we're not the doers, but we want to help the doers make things happen so they can help as many people as possible. It's a great opportunity.”