YOUNGSTOWN Legal-service agency to cut its staff

The agency is losing more than $300,000 a year in government funding.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Cutbacks are looming at Northeast Ohio Legal Services because of a reduction in its government funding.
Atty. James C. Callen, executive director, said the nonprofit corporation will lay off seven to nine people by the end of the year. That's a 20 percent reduction in its staff.
Callen said the agency provides free legal service to low-income people in civil cases. It gets most of its funding in state and federal dollars, with the allocations based on the number of people in its service area who are above the poverty level.
According to figures from the 2000 census, the number of people in that category has dropped in the four counties that NEOLS serves: Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Wayne.
He said the number decreased from 124,441 in 1990 to 103,640 in 2000. That will translate to a loss of about $308,000 a year, or about 20 percent of the agency's overall budget, Callen said.
"Nonprofit agencies are no more immune to what's going on in the rest of the world's economy than anyone else is, "Callen said. "The irony is that we ought to be happy that there are fewer low-income people in our area."
The funding cut will hit next year, but Callen said the layoffs will be done this year to avoid "getting into a huge deficit situation" in 2003.
According to its Web site, Northeast Ohio Legal Services has 16 attorneys, three paralegals and 15 support staff members who provide services from four offices -- one in each of its four counties.
Callen said the Columbiana County office, located in Lisbon, will be closed because of the budget cuts. He did not know when that will happen.
The agency handles an average of 4,000 to 4,500 civil cases a year for low-income people, Callen said. It does not handle criminal cases.

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