Welcome to the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute is a statewide non-profit legal services organization whose mission is to advance economic, racial and social justice through legal action, education and advocacy. MLRI specializes in large-scale legal initiatives and systemic reforms that address the root causes of poverty, remove barriers to opportunity, promote economic stability and create a path to self-sufficiency for low-income individuals and families. For over 40 years, MLRI has been the backbone of the Massachusetts civil legal aid system and is considered one of the premier impact advocacy and poverty law support centers in the country.
NEW! MLRI Issues Analysis of Senate Ways and Means Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2014
On May 15, 2013, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its budget proposal for fiscal year 2014 (FY 14). MLRI has prepared a summary and analysis of the proposal, following its summaries of the Governor’s budget proposal released in January and the House Ways and Means budget proposal released in April. Proposed amendments to the Senate Ways and Means proposal must be filed 3:00 PM on Friday, May 17. The full Senate will debate the budget starting on Wednesday, May 22.
Download MLRI's summary of the Senate Ways and Means Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2014
NEW! Federal Judge Grants Preliminary Approval of Settlement Agreement in National Class Action Lawsuit on Work Authorization for Asylum Seekers (May 8, 2012)
On May 8, 2013, a federal district court issued an order preliminarily approving a settlement agreement in a nationwide class action lawsuit that challenged the denial of work authorization to asylum seekers who have been waiting six months or more for a decision on their asylum applications. The lawsuit is called B.H. et al v. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, et al (also referred to as “ABT”). This lawsuit was filed by the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center (LAC), the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI), and the law firm Gibbs Houston Pauw. The Notice to class members about the settlement and other documents are available for downloading below:
The Court's Order
Notice to Class Members
NEW! MLRI Issues Analysis of House Ways and Means Budget for Fiscal Year 2014
Yesterday, the House Committee on Ways and Means released its budget recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year. MLRI has prepared an analysis of the Committee's recommendations in areas including: Homelessness, Housing, Cash Assistance, Nutrition Programs, Health, Child Welfare and Child Care. Download and read the analysis.
Download MLRI's summary of the House Ways and Means Budget for Fiscal Year 2014
NEW! MLRI Issues Report on Family Homelessness Crisis
In September 2012, Massachusetts imposed new restrictions on eligibility to emergency shelter for homeless families with children. On April 9, 2013 MLRI released a report, "Out in the Cold: Homeless Children in Crisis in Massachusetts." This report highlights the adverse impacts of these new regulations—including, e.g., forcing homeless children to stay in places not meant for human habitation, shifting cost burdens to the Commonwealth’s health care system, and forcing vulnerable families to resort to unsafe and destabilizing irregular housing practices—and makes recommendations to fix the most urgent problems. Download and read the report:
NEW! MLRI's Rebuttal to Recent Press Reports of SNAP/Food Stamp Waste
Recent news reports suggest ongoing waste of taxpayer dollars and mismanagement by DTA of the SNAP (food stamps) program, including a $27M overpayment of federal funds. There was NO fraud and NO fault on the part of SNAP recipients involved. All of the Massachusetts SNAP households played by the rules. They timely reported changes in advance of their next recertification period. USDA have found NO fault on the part of Massachusetts SNAP recipients in determining this overpayment. Here's what you need to know.
NEW! MRLI Analysis of Recent Inspector General Report of DTA Record Keeping
The Inspector General’s report issued January 30, 2013 found gaps in Department of Transitional Assistance record keeping for cash assistance cases. The IG did not find any fraud. The IG did not find that $25 million in welfare benefits are wasted. And the IG did not say the families were ineligible or were overpaid. Read our analysis to get the facts.
MLRI, its Legal Services Partners and Community Allies Fight to Protect Homeless Families
Effective August 6, 2012, the Massachusetts Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) implemented new regulations that deny the vast majority of homeless families with children access to emergency shelter through the Emergency Assistance program. Public hearings on the new regulations were held by DHCD with packed audiences Oct. 22 in Springfield and Oct. 25 at the State House in Boston. Homeless families, legislators, legal services advocates from programs across the state, medical doctors and nurses, domestic violence advocates, social workers, and many others provided compelling and powerful testimony that focused on the need to preserve the emergency shelter safety net to protect homeless families and children. In addition, seventy organizations around the Commonwealth signed a letter urging Governor Patrick, Senate and House leadership to modify the new regulations and restore access to emergency shelter for vulnerable children at "imminent risk of staying in places not meant for human habitation."
Despite testimony that the new shelter restrictions are causing harm to the health and safety of homeless children, DHCD refused to modify the final regulations to restore access to shelter. As a result, every day homeless families and children throughout the Commonwealth are being forced to sleep in unsafe places before they can get into shelter. Watch this video that explains the problem and what you can do to help.
MLRI Awarded HomeCorps Grant for Homelessness Prevention Program
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute received a Crisis Response Innovation Grant from the Attorney General's office to create an innovative Homelessness Prevention Program for the purpose of preventing evictions and maintaining possession for tenants at high risk for homelessness. MLRI will work with the Massachusetts Justice Project, Community Legal Aid, MetroWest Legal Services and a special advisory panel. The program's overall goal is to defend against unnecessary evictions and provide other legal assistance that will help low income clients avoid homelessness. Lawyers in the field will represent targeted households in eviction proceedings with the goal of preserving tenancies and obtaining necessary repairs and damages, or leveraging sufficient resources to allow tenants to move and find other suitable housing. This project will build on the success achieved by two pilot projects of the Boston Bar Association's Task Force on the Civil Right to Counsel that used a "targeted representation" model to identify a special subset of low income tenants who were at risk of losing their apartments through eviction despite their legal rights. For more information, view the Attorney General's press release.
MLRI Spotlighted in ABA Magazine
MLRI was chosen as the featured organization in the latest edition of Dialogue the magazine of the American Bar Association's Division for Legal Services. The piece, "Tough Advocacy for Tough Times," highlights MLRI's multi-forum advocacy and strategies for systemic reform, using as an example its work to preserve affordable housing units in two high-profile cases.