On January 10, dozens of people packed the ground-floor lobby of the Legal Aid Bureau in downtown Baltimore as Douglas F. Gansler, Attorney General of Maryland, announced the disbursement of $7.6 million among six Baltimore-area legal services providers.
The money – a portion of the $957 million awarded to Maryland as part of the $25 billion National Mortgage Settlement, led by Gansler, in February 2012 – will benefit those Maryland homeowners and renters who have borne the brunt of the national foreclosure crisis.
“What we’re here to talk about today is not insignificant,” said Gansler. “This is the ability to help over 10,000 families in Maryland, each one of which deserves to have their own home, and the ability to raise their children in their home, and to be part of their communities.”
“The organizations that are receiving the money today are the lawyers who do God’s work, the real work for the people,” he noted.
Gansler characterized the recipients as “legitimate, top-quality organizations that care about the people” they serve and the issues at hand. “They will use this money effectively and efficiently to help over 10,000 families remain in their homes.”
Of the funds, Legal Aid Bureau will receive the lion’s share, $3.6 million. The balance will be distributed among Civil Justice, Inc. ($1.4 million); Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service ($930,275); St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, Inc. ($600,000); the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland ($565,000); and Public Justice Center, Inc. ($510,000).
The money will primarily fund expanded legal representation for homeowners who are facing foreclosure or otherwise having trouble with mortgage payments, foreclosure mediations, loan modifications, debt collection, and eviction proceedings, as well as assisting them through education programs. The funds will be disbursed to the six organizations over a three-year period.
Maryland Legal Aid Executive Director Wilhelm H. Joseph, Jr., praised Gansler’s commitment to assisting those state residents most severely stricken by the foreclosure crisis of recent years.
“One of the things I really admire about Mr. Gansler and his team is something that we stress here at Legal Aid Bureau: we [both] stick to the tenets of zealousness, competence, and client-centered services,” noted Joseph. “Every conversation I’ve had with Doug, he’s mentioned the clients, the clients, the clients – the people of Maryland.”
St. Ambrose Executive Director Gerard J. Joab echoed Joseph’s sentiment. “This does our hearts really good to see people getting help and to know that there are people within the political system that understand where these resources should go and how to get them there.”
Sharon E. Goldsmith, Executive Director of the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, said that the additional funds would help ensure that her organization and others like it would be “able to continue our vital work and help those in distress.”
“It remains a privilege to continue working with the Attorney General and his team in helping our most needy citizens,” she added.
In late 2010, Gansler, who also serves as President of the National Association of Attorneys General, spearheaded a national effort on behalf of 49 state attorneys general to hold the mortgage industry accountable for the foreclosure crisis that began two years earlier. The National Mortgage Settlement was announced in February 2012, whereby the country’s five largest mortgage servicers – Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi Bank, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo – agreed to pay approximately $25 billion, the largest consumer financial protection settlement in American history.