Some good news on funding, for a change!
In late June, the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau received notice from the State of Maryland that they would not be awarded the Child In Need of Assistance (CINA) contract to provide legal representation to abused and neglected children in five large jurisdictions where the program currently provides representation. These contracts total approximately $4 million annually. Losing these contracts would have resulted in massive and unnecessary disruption, turmoil, and instability in the lives of vulnerable children as well as the loss of 35-40 bargaining unit positions.
The leadership of the Maryland Legal Aid Workers (MDLAW) immediately went to work to fight this nearly impossible battle to save the CINA funding. Our first challenge was with the Board of Public Works, the entity that approves all large State contracts. The Board of Public Works is comprised of the Governor, the Treasurer, and the Comptroller.
We worked in conjunction with the UAW Region 8 CAP Representatives, Jim Rogers and Darren Petty, to secure meetings and get information to the members of Board of Public Works prior to the August 21st meeting to help the members of the Board understand the issues involved and the devastating impact a change in legal representation would have on our clients.
Members gathered to write letters advocating a review of the procurement process and retaining the services of the current providers. Isaac Conver, President of MDLAW, and Pam Smith, Financial Secretary-Treasurer of NOLSW, UAW Local 2320, met with the Governor’s Chief of Staff and the Maryland Secretary of State, to provide an overview of our concerns with the process and its impact on abused and neglected children as well as on our members.
At the Board of Public Works meeting on August 21st, MDLAW members packed the room in support of our child clients and reform of the procurement process. Our members took leave to attend the meeting on a work day with only ten (10) days-notice. Members proudly displayed “Kids First” buttons, and several testified on behalf of Legal Aid and procurement reform. The CINA contract issue was the last issue on the agenda to be heard. Our members stayed all day, without a lunch break, and many without chairs, to show their support.
Their herculean efforts paid off-- the State is going to exercise the two-year-renewal option on all existing CINA contracts!!! Not only did we save $8 million in funding, but we also got the State to set up a task force to review the problems with the procurement process. The work of this task force should result in more stability for future funding. We could not have hoped for a more favorable result, this is a huge victory for Maryland's kids and for our members.
Thank you to all our members at Maryland for everything you did to win this tremendous victory. Special thanks to Jim Rogers and Darren Petty from UAW Region 8 for all their help. Props also to Isaac Conver, Jonathan Tucker, Linda Holmes, and Lou Dorsey and the MDLAW leadership team who worked so hard to secure this victory. Together you made the impossible happen!