Updates from MVLS’ Executive Director

Happy Summer?
Like many, we at MVLS are trying to adjust yet again to the complexities of figuring out how to move safely into this next phase of the pandemic. We are filled with a bit of optimism and much hesitancy.  While MVLS staff have been hard at work all along, we began returning more consistently to our physical office earlier this month and plan to be fully back in September. Being in space with our committed colleagues inspires all of us to continue the work of reducing justice barriers for our clients.
At the same time, many of us have some anxiety about what lies ahead; a bit for ourselves as we re-acclimate to being in shared space again, but mostly for our clients who we know are truly struggling with the long-term consequences of COVID. The moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures are set to end on July 31. After a devastating year of job loss, medical hardships, and tremendous instability, we know that many Marylanders are in very precarious financial condition. We also recognize the role that structural racism plays, in that Black families are likely to have smaller amounts of emergency funds than White families, are more likely to be struggling with the cost of basic necessities like food, and are most likely to be behind on rent and mortgage payments.
We expect to see a significant increase in requests for help as collections, evictions and foreclosure cases begin to be filed and processed through the courts. We’ve already seen more demand for family law assistance, and anticipate experiencing higher request across all legal areas.  In response, MVLS resumed our in-person outreach events in June. While we are so thankful to be out in our communities again, we recognize that the more individuals in need of help find out about MVLS, the more demand will increase. If you are an attorney, CPA or enrolled agent, now is the time, we need your help. While many of us are in the process of reacclimating ourselves to a safer COVID environment, our clients have not been able to choose their interactions based on their comfort level. They are mostly working in the public facing jobs that have kept us all moving forward in the past year and half. And they don’t get the choice about whether to enter a courthouse when they are being sued by a creditor. As we all come back to more normal work life again, please consider helping one of our clients who haven’t had that benefit during COVID, and desperately need help.
Attorneys – there’s an additional way to help. You should be receiving your notice from AIS to complete your annual reporting requirements for the client protection fund, pro bono activity and IOLTA accounts in the next few days. At the end of the pro bono activity form, there is an opportunity to donate to a legal services program. Please consider making a gift to MVLS. Our work is important and life-changing for our clients. And the demand for help over the next year will be unprecedented.
Your support of MVLS makes a difference. One recent example of the tremendous impact we’re having improving housing stabilization was the Baltimore City Mayor removing owner occupied homes from tax sale in May, only after a significant advocacy effort led by numerous MVLS staff members.  As we were able to highlight, tax sale has a significant disproportionate impact on Black legacy homeowners. Here’s a recent published column by my colleague, Margaret Henn, in the Baltimore Sun.
Finally, I’m thrilled to announce that we are planning an in-person (though COVID modified) Celebrate Pro Bono event in early October. I couldn’t be happier to have our first major event be this one. There’s nothing more important to MVLS than our volunteers, and we’re thrilled to be able to honor all of you in person this year. Please keep an eye out for your save the date!
The road ahead is daunting and still quite unclear. But with 40 years under our belt, and with your tremendous support, I know that we will continue to have significant impact in ensuring justice for all.