Current Grants

State Legal Aid Infrastructure & Innovation Grants 2022-2023

NOTICE OF FUNDING AVAILABILITY

UPDATE 9/13/22: The California Access to Justice Commission (CalATJ) is pleased to announce that the 2022-2023 Legal Aid Infrastructure & Innovation Grant application has been released on SmartSimple.

  • Please make sure you review the eligibility and project requirements, below, carefully before applying. 
  • Visit the SmartSimple page and use your login credentials to access and submit your organization’s application. Instructional videos are available on the external SmartSimple page.
  • We will be holding an informational webinar via Zoom on Thursday, September 29, tentatively from 1:00-2:30 p.m. Pacific Time. The webinar is optional and will be recorded and posted to the CalATJ website for those who are unable to attend. Join details are as follows:
  • The application deadline is October 21, 2022. Early submissions appreciated.


BACKGROUND

For the second year, the State has appropriated $5,000,000 through the Judicial Council for the California Access to Justice Commission (CalATJ) to provide grants to nonprofit organizations that provide civil legal aid to indigent persons. These funds are to support infrastructure and innovation in organizations that provide legal services to create access to justice in civil matters. Applicants do not need to be IOLTA-funded to be eligible for these grants.  

Please email [email protected] if you would like to be put on a mailing list for further information about this grant opportunity, including notice of an upcoming webinar to respond to questions. The anticipated application release date is Friday, September 9.   

ELIGIBILITY

Applicants must meet the following criteria in order to be eligible to apply:

  • Funds are available to 501(c)(3) nonprofits that provide civil legal aid, including (but not limited to) qualified legal services projects and support centers as defined in Sections 6213 to 6215, inclusive, of the Business and Professions Code.
  • Applicants must provide civil legal services to indigent persons living at or below 200% FPT; “Indigent” is as defined in Section 6213(d) of the Business and Professions Code.
  • Special focus shall be given to:
    • projects that provide services to rural or underserved immigrant communities, regardless of citizenship status;
    • projects that involve meaningful partnership with community-based nonprofits


AWARD INFORMATION*

  • Total Funding: $4,875,000
  • Expected Number of Grants: 30-40
  • Grants Size: $25,000 – $250,000 per project
  • Anticipated Median Range: $75,000 – $125,000
  • Grant Period: The grant period is 12 months, beginning April 1, 2023 


PROJECT REQUIREMENTS

Project funds must be used to support the (1) infrastructure and/or (2) innovation needs of legal services in civil matters for indigent persons as defined by individuals living at or below 200% FPT. Innovation and Infrastructure project examples are available on the CalATJ website.

Infrastructure: Similar to capacity building, infrastructure refers to foundational elements that help a nonprofit reach new levels of operational, programmatic, financial, or organizational maturity, so it may more effectively and efficiently advance its mission into the future. Infrastructure projects may include planning, governance, staffing, evaluation, financial management, legal accountability, communications, administrative functions, and technology. Infrastructure can also include leveraging relationships to access resources, exchange ideas, address shared issues, and collectively problem-solve in an effort to build capacity, both for a nonprofit and for the broader network, with the common goal of addressing pressing social concerns. (Adapted from the National Council of Nonprofits.)

Innovation: Innovation is not necessarily a new project. It could be an expansion project, or improvements to a unique service delivery model. Innovations in legal aid change the affordability, accessibility, or effectiveness of practices or tools used to provide high-quality legal assistance to low-income persons. This can include approaches for using technology or partnerships in legal services delivery; enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of existing technologies or partnerships so that they may be better used to increase the quality and quantity of services to clients; or replicating, adapting, or providing added value to the work of prior technology projects or partnerships. Innovation efforts can be applied to programs, products or devices, partnerships, communications, or operating processes. Innovation results in improvements to service delivery, quality of legal work, and managerial practices. Innovations often incorporate technology, but can also be reflected in partnerships, service delivery models, or frameworks. (Adapted from PATH per Boston Consulting Group and Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grant Program.)

APPLICATION TIMELINE (TENTATIVE)

Sept 9, 2022

Applications released on SmartSimple

Sept 29, 2022

Informational webinar 

Oct 21, 2022

Applications due

Oct 22 2022 – Jan 23 2023

Application review; follow-up conducted with grantees as needed; recommendations provided by Selection Committee to Executive Committee 

Jan 24, 2023

Grant Awards Announced 

Feb 15, 2023

Supplemental budget and other information due 

Apr 1, 2023

Grant period begins


SUBGRANTS

Subgrants to legal aid organizations or community partners are encouraged. Applicants that are applying for a grant and are also a subgrantee of another application must demonstrate that the separate grants will not fund the same activities. 

EVALUATION

Grantees will be required to complete quarterly fiscal reports, quarterly evaluation and status reports, and a final evaluative report, and may be required to participate in site visits. Additional information may be requested based on individual circumstances. Being able to report on accomplishment with this funding, will support communication efforts for continued funding.



KEY FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

ELIGIBILITY

    • Q: Do organizations need to be IOLTA or LSC-eligible to apply? 

      • A: Organizations need to provide civil legal services to persons at or below 200% of the federal poverty threshold, or to seniors or to persons with certain developmental disabilities pursuant to Business & Professions Code §6213(d).  Organizations do not need to be either IOLTA or LSC eligible.  

    • Q: Are non-profit organizations that are not legal services organizations eligible to apply?

      • A: If you have a dedicated legal services program that provides civil legal aid to indigent persons, and can demonstrate funds would support that work, yes.

    • Q: Can law school legal clinics apply?

      • A: Provided the law school is a nonprofit, has a dedicated legal services program that provides civil legal aid to indigent persons, and can demonstrate funds would support that work, yes.

    • Q: What data does an organization need in order to demonstrate that its clients are at 200% of the Federal Poverty Threshold, or otherwise meet eligibility requirements? 

      • A: Because the information available will depend on the nature of the project proposed, the Access Commission will rely on organizations to indicate how they are demonstrating that clients meet income eligibility guidelines. 

    • Q: What are “civil legal services”?

      • A: Civil legal services include professional services normally provided by a lawyer, and similar or complementary services of a law student or paralegal under the supervision of a lawyer.  Civil legal services can be direct services to clients, or policy advocacy.  The definition of “civil” is expanded to follow SB211 to include legal services related to expungements, and record sealing or clearance proceedings not requiring a finding of factual innocence and infractions.  

GENERAL

    • Q: Can applicants request more than $250,000?

      • A: The Commission may consider grants in excess of this amount if they incorporate exceptional innovation or partnerships, or infrastructure projects that serve the legal aid network broadly.

    • Q: Can an organization submit multiple applications? 

      • A: An organization may only submit one application as the lead applicant.  The organization may be an identified partner in additional applications from other applicants.

    • Q: Can an organization include multiple smaller projects within its application? 

      • A: Applications should describe one cohesive project. If the organization can state a cogent explanation for how smaller components of a project fit together to create a cohesive whole, the Commission may fund all or part of that project.

    • Q: Will applicants be able to apply for these funds again next year?

      • A: Contingent upon continued funding, organizations will have the opportunity to re-apply for continuation funding in the subsequent year.

    • Q: What happens if a grantee doesn’t spend funds down within the 12-month grant period?

      • A: Carryover of funds may be requested in extenuating circumstances; carryover must be expended before 6/30/2023.

PARTNERS, SUBGRANTEES & CONTRACTORS

    • Q: Can grant funding be “passed-through” to non-legal community partners?

      • A: Grant funds can be sub-granted to community-based organizations who are not legal aid providers provided that it furthers the proposed project’s purpose. The sub-granted funds must help the grantee move its proposed innovation or infrastructure project forward. Sub-granted funds that are passed through purely for the benefit of the subrecipient will not be funded.  

    • Q: Can two applicants apply separately for grants where there will be a partnership? 

      • A: Two applicants may also apply for separate grants to work together, if that partnership is reported in both applications, and if each project, if funded, would stand alone if the other grant were not funded.

    • Q: What is the difference between a subcontractor (consultant or vendor) and a subgrantee?

      • A: If the partner is not a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, report the partner as a subcontractor. If the partner is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax-exempt organization, it is up to the applicant to identify the partner as either a subcontractor or a subgrantee. In addition to having legal and accounting ramifications for your organization, it will affect how you apply and report. If you structure the relationship as a subgrant, the subgrantee is agreeing to help you meet project deliverables. Therefore, you will need to state the subgrantee’s staff and budget in the application, and report on its progress toward deliverables during the grant year. The subgrantee will be bound by the terms and conditions of the grant agreement. By contrast, a subcontractor will provide goods or services, and generally is bound by contractual requirements. If you name the partner as a subcontractor (or consultant, or vendor), you will need to demonstrate that before you selected the subcontractor, you met all your procurement policy requirements. 

USE OF FUNDS

    • Q: Will grants for fundraising expenses be funded?  

      • A: The funds cannot be used to cover fundraising expenses, such as to hire a development director or to host a fundraising event. Funds can be used to cover other infrastructure or programmatic needs, such as for website development or for a communication campaign that might also support fundraising efforts. 

    • Q: Can funds be used for an endowment, e.g., an endowment to retain fellows after the fellowship ends, and before another source of funding to maintain the position is identified?  

      • A:  Because these are State Funds, grant funds cannot be used to fund an endowment, which may or may not be spent down during the grant term.  However, a grant proposal to build the workforce by creating a cohort of paid summer fellows (e.g., summer of 2022), including a training curriculum for that cohort that could be used in future years, could potentially be funded as either an innovation or infrastructure project. 

    • Q: Can grant funds be used for updating a website? 

      • A: Yes, updating a website could be an innovation or a project to enhance infrastructure, depending on the nature of the described activity. 

    • Q: Can grant funds be used to hire a consultant evaluator? 

      • A: Yes, grant funds could be used to hire a consultant for evaluation. For example, funds could be proposed to evaluate ways to improve an organization’s intake process, database management, or program delivery.  

    • Q: Can funds be put toward work that is already funded or staffed?

      • A: Supplanting is prohibited by the legislation. Funds must be used to supplement existing funds for program activities and cannot replace or supplant funds that have been appropriated for the same purpose. If you seek funding for existing staff positions or committed expenses, you’ll need to explain in the Budget Narrative (once your application is tentatively approved) why this should not be considered supplanting existing funding sources.